November 14, 2007KR BlogUncategorized

On Edward Field

This post is the work of Sean Casey–TM


In the face of tragedy, poet Edward Field never forgets an important truth: all humans have genitals. Indeed, the new poems from his new and selected, After the Fall, dealing as they do with war, terrorism, old age, and George W. Bush, would be all the bleaker were it not for the testicles:

Once, a Zen master ordered his acolyte
to take his position, holding up the universe,

from which nothing was supposed to budge him, nothing–
when the master grabbed his balls.

–from “Holding Up the Universe”

Field published his memoirs, The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag, earlier this year, but After the Fall is his first collection of poetry since 1998’s A Frieze for a Temple of Love. Readers new to Field would do well to save the collection’s new poems for last and start with After the Fall’s generous selection of early work: his 1963 debut, Stand Up, Friend, With Me (which includes a personal favorite, the innocent and filthy “Graffiti”), and the movie and WW2 poems of 1967’s Variety Photoplays.

In After the Fall’s new poems, Field draws heavily upon his experiences as New Yorker and bomber pilot to reflect on September 2001 and the domestic and international catastrophes that followed. Many of the poems are political, and trenchantly so, marking a new direction in Field’s work. The book’s long title poem concerns the Twin Towers in their absence:

I too disliked them
–the way they wrecked the classic New York skyline–
and plotted how to get rid of them,
or at least cut them lower.

Merely an irritation before,
now after their fall
they’ve grown monstrous,
looming over our lives.

As ever, Field handles his subjects with as much irreverence as care. The protest on the page is forceful, but not forced. “Homeland Security,” his poem of advice to “anybody who looks like an Arab these days,” ends this way:

And when they lead you away in handcuffs
don’t bother protesting your innocence and calling for a lawyer.
You can’t have one–and you’re guilty.

One personal qualifier of a good poem is that I find myself repeating its lines. They bury themselves in my mind and become part of my processing of the world. Field’s work has given me a lot of these. “I too disliked them” and “You can’t have one–and you’re guilty” are two new additions to this list.

Field’s homepage can be found here.

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