Now by Thomas SImmons
THE GENIUS of Simmons lies in his range among the Western tradition of poetic endeavour and expression, and in his reception and comprehension of more than two millennia of poetry. For he draws upon the world of the Homeric heroes and of the Athenian tragic theatre, from the vision of Dante Alighieri, the English Romantics, and Twentieth Century modernist poets, and as the book progresses so too does our reception not simply of Simmons’ own writing but of the Western canon itself. This book encompasses great literary knowledge and tradition, both lightly and transiently, and as the reader moves through the pages our learning is not merely supplied by this one book but by the complete body of almost three thousand years of poetic countenance. This is a terrific achievement, to condense and to distil so much vision and human indication, so briefly and beautifully and with such gentle facility.
All this is compounded within the poet’s personal experience of human endurance and optimism in the face of perpetual subtraction; even diurnal futility possesses a worthy charge for the author, supplying the tensile lines of NOW with a strong and rare beauty of sonorous imagery. Simmons is constantly and variously eloquent, playing with metaphor in all its aspects; in SILENT REVEL, for instance, writing about the dawn he says, as the light rises, your eyes open to The partial from which you turned away, and I, fully Satisfied, fly to the high bough of my expectancy. This light of which he speaks is greater than any native or sublunary radiance and touches upon the perpetual luminous exchange which occurs among not only the male and feminine but throughout all life.
The poet speaks not only of the Americas but of the entire terrestrial, so that the assembly of places which are depicted in this book edge the viewer towards what is often referred to as the ‘Classic’, insofar as so much mortal proficiency and familiarity are represented here. The extent of this book is vast in so many ways that it is an exquisite compendium of all literary kind, of innumerable earthly situations, and of humanity itself in wonderful and redeeming detail.
Simmons himself says, as the earth speaks to the moon – make us well, and such is the bearing of the book that the reader is made into something more by perusing these pages: they make one ‘well’. The literal knowledge delivered in this excellent and remarkable recent work brings to us a witness of our first myth, for our inherited truth and moral innocence have been forsaken by current modernity: our robes are gone and our necklaces, writes the author. As the poet says, life divided me from God ... Yet there is goodness here and the healing of well-measured speech, delivered perfectly by Thomas Simmons.
KEVIN MCGRATH ~ TWO THOUSAND & SEVENTEEN
Kevin McGRATH was born in southern China in 1951 and was educated in England and Scotland; he has lived and worked in France, Greece, and India. Presently he is an associate of the Department of South Asian Studies and poet in residence at Lowell House, Harvard University. Publications include, Fame (1995), Lioness (1998), The Sanskrit Hero (2004), Stri (2009), Jaya (2011), Supernature (2012), Heroic Krsna and Eroica (2013), In The Kacch and Windward (2015), Arjuna Pandava (2016), and Raja Yudhisthira (2017). McGrath lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his family.
The deep night owl
beyond your vision in sleep
Is my mastery of silent revel, my fulfilled promise
To you, no longer stranger. Hear in that soft
Voice you do not know the warranty of trust,
Your promise, though unfulfilled before, also
Made good. I do not control the image
In your head, but neither is it your image–
Only an assurance to be acted on, mine given
And yours foreseen as night shades into
Dawn, as the light rises, your eyes open to
The partial from which you turned away, and I, fully
Satisfied, fly to the high bough of my expectancy.
Thomas Simmons served as an associate professor for the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT, and for over two decades in the Department of English at the University of Iowa. He was a doctoral student in English at the University of California, Berkeley, a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford, and a Stanford University undergraduate. He is the author of seven previous books; one, The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christi- an Science Childhood, Beacon Press, 1991, which may have caused some offense in Boston. He presently resides in either Grinnell, Iowa, or on a boat on Lake Michigan out of Chicago.