Tuesday, July 12, 2016



THIS HERE by Jim McCrary
(theenk Books, Palmyra, N.Y., 2015)

            Jim McCrary’s work has always been minimalist, the tone of his poems always unconceited and cautious against any self-importance, but at the same time fiercely subjective and scrutinizing of the act of seeing.  Not as a question of objects perceived, but the semantic weight of them (Ed Dorn and Robert Duncan fans should particularly take note).  At the end of the book, he states that it is “a memoir and it is autobiographic and you can believe or not believe its content”, so punctuates the “this or not” quandary of thought that almost every poem in this collection lays out, starting with “Listen to Me While I Die”:

            Listen to me while I die or do not listen to me no different
            Since all will come before this finds the final rhyme
            Or not

            It is a stubborn path he carves for himself, I tell myself, if only because I find myself a little more light heartedly intrigued by the “poetry (and poetics) community of the attention seekers, the conceptualists (especially conceptualists) and other tricksters who are given an aura of importance generated  by much hype in the interwebs—whom McCrary has no patience for. 

            The already airtight conversation called import by
            The participants and commanders who seem to spend
            Countless hours scouring all letter in both known and
            Unknown alphabets just to find something to say.

            Like any of this matters.  Matters.

He continues writing these gorgeous lines as if to qualify his pessismism without raising an actual question to it.  Very likewise to what Stephen Ellis once wrote about Jim’s poetry, “talking about one thing while meaning another in order to register time’s passage”.

            And the end is near(er) than you think it might be
            Just around a corner left to this
            When begun again then the end comes closer to hearing footsteps
            And when you can hear the feet it’s time to beat
            [old tune titles best used as fill to craft]

Then there is his choice of pagination. His poems are moderately long but give so much space inbetween, often resuming at the top of the next page, almost as serialization without numbers. You could say he gives us the freedom to choose if it is serialized, or not. Not.

While it is a poetry accutely aware of mortality, it’s not burdened with telling you how it feels.  It’s as if he’s warming up to the idea of perceptions of the work being recklessly out of his control.  And that’s just fine, because Jim is usually at his best when at his funniest:

            Emily D said
            To me over a beer
            Recently my girlfriend
            Tastes like Watermelon
            And I thought
            What Might that be

            Emily D said to me
            Over a beer
            Recently did you ever
            Just name it
            And I said
            No not me

Part of me wants to argue that the memoir itself as a form is questioned in these poems —I, still dazzled by Hejinian’s My Life, don’t think I’m going to take that line until I do a rigorous survey of memoir poems,This Here’s attempt at memoir stands up most at intervals of those said pieces.  He is partly responding with a skepticism to a lot of the many published memoirs in poetry forms out there.  But let someone more interested in poetry gossip to take that (brightly colored) thread.  But clearly, there is a literary life here that is cheerished, which comes more to the fore in his prose pieces of his life and times with friends Ed Dorn, Paul Blackburn, and his time working for William S. Bourroughs Communications.  Like his poems they are (doing away with pronouns and prepositions whenever vernaculary {?} possible), soberly precise and sincere. 

            “…[Hunter S.] Thompson was most happy to suggest something new that was needed.  In the midst of all that, he somehow managed to let slip off his lap a Skoal tin half full of exceptional cocaine onto the concrete floor.  I imediately joined him under the table in a valiant attempt to help clean up the mess best we could using the doubled v credit card method.  Quickly done and actually applauded by one of the co-ed servers.”
The poem “(Unveiled)” incorporates more of this overt memoir, but employing montage.  In one scene he recalls a moment that itself involves a recall of an even older event, the narrator’s presence of with may have a doubt, but easily discard it: 

            A beautiful lookin man sits next to me on the bench.
            I hunch over even more and gather my skirts.
            My Juliette arrives and sits on the other side of the man.
            He does not yet know that he is finished as a politician

            Janis [Joplin, I’m pretty sure] is sitting in the back booth eating a bagel

Then, again in “(unveiled)”, the pagination. It seems a way of acknowledging the pretense and/but unavoidable desire for closure, likewise the inevitable compulsion  towards a likely disappointed expectation, the forehand knowledge thereof doing nothing to stop you from continuing (read Jim’s previous 2012 chapbook of from Hank’s Original Loose gravel press to see more of what I mean):

            This poem is about my mother’s mother.
            She left most of her charm in Germany.
            Came to Peru.
            Became veiled, as was the way.

Instead of opening the poem to more possibility, the narrator’s skepticism steps in just after the characters are given an historical therefore not just private life.

            Note: just because it is fake doesn’t mean it’s good or not.  Not.

            The whole story is never written as much as some 
            Would hope
            And in fact the mess is made thinking something writ
            is writ with meaning.

The wonderful somehow restrained bluntness in lineation of McCrary’s poems put on upon us is not just a reaction to the blown up world of events that get shoved into out senses, but a series of low key recollections that nevertheless strive for giving remembered experiences their due.  It’s not that life has no meaning or that the text is undecipherable, nor is it the typical veneration of the “everyday” (that certainly gets thrown around, deservedly or not, when talking about 90% of anthologized poets of his generation,).  It’s the acknowledgement that once a narrator writes their act of witness it is already impossible to allow them to be enshrined, amidst the very largeness of a public that a mere single subject properly gets lost in, amidst the imperfection of human memory

            Many things don’t matter now
            Me or not me taken into account
            Not me more than me
            Not me this time more than
            Go ahead
            Celebrate this when finished
            That is one way to “receive”
            Or not
            Or not

And the expectation that a reader can accept (or not!) a poem of having on him/her to finishish the tale.  What’s to keep the reader from deciding not?  That’s not a question in these poems, but as sugggested in “Cis Boom Ba”, the reader is almost flirtatiously encouraged:

            And didn’t I expect all this
            So long coming and then not here
            Yet turning around to find
            Soemthing left
            Just something
            In case anyeone wanted to
[poem pauses long before the next page:] 
            Always continue

            The list of things
            I am not referring to 
            Is endless

            There are no comments
            Just fill in your own blanks
            Use them up

Tag/file/mark/ This Here under #Deictic Sublime (another thread that should be taken up in talking about his work) and get to reading.


Creed Shepard writes, makes music, art, politically organizes, makes house with his partner, lives and works in Lawrence, Kansas. He's the founding editor and chief producer of Enduring Puberty Press (EPP), a literary and visual art press that specializes in correspondence and epistolary art.  Through EPP he advocates for a strengthening of residential art and literary performances that build interpersonal relationships completely or near completely independent of the given economic infrastructure of local arts communities.

1 comment:

  1. Another view is offered by richard lopez in this issue GR #26 at