"The Last of the Red Hot Lovers", la dernier vin de le vieux siècle, La Belle Ajar by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
and CLASH Books rockets in. Adrian Ernesto Cepeda lives and works in Los Angeles with his wife and Woody Gold their
orange cat. He has studied at the University of Texas and Antioch University. Cepeda is published in journals and
won The Children of Orpheus Anthology first prize at Subterranean Blue Poetry in 2016. This is the third Book
Review This Writer has written for Cepeda, the first being Flashes and Verses . . . Becoming Attractions and
the second Between the Spine.
This book is a series of cento poems written from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The title of each poem is taken from the first paragraph of each chapter, the poem built from single words within that chapter, a masterful work. Traditionally, a cento is a form of protest from Ancient Rome, lines of existing poems were reworked into new entities and presented in public. The biography of the write is included in the Foreword and Afterword of the book, always fascinating. Sylvia Plath, an icon of the modernist school, noted for brilliance in confessional poetry and best known for the poetry collections Ariel and The Colossus and Other Poems as well as this novel which is semi-autobiographical, The Bell Jar, published just before her death by suicide.
Electric. Each of the 20 poems presents an entre nous, as if an afternoon, an evening, a night in bed with a lover, a truncated first person narrative. The persona easily switches back and forth between the male and the female, the poet and the author Sylvia Plath, a contusion in obliteration, as the sexes meld, dissolve, the thoughts intertwining in poetry. A truly inspired and brilliant construction, perhaps of someone caught in a sexual dilettante scene. The poet, Sylvia Plath, and perhaps Cepeda caught in the white porcelain room somewhere between gazing into the mirror and the written page. The poet being broken into the crucible, a journey that some do not survive.
The images are surreal, broken, manifesting a haunted beauty, a deep depression, a violence. Lines about electroconvulsive therapy and drug injections, descriptions of the lover, the night clothed in nature imagery. From "I FELT DARKNESS, BUT NOTHING ELSE":
"I liked the flashes
of smoke. The noise. My skin
jolting. First came the smell.
Matches made of intense candy.
I disappeared without looking,
I didn't speak, my silk pajamas,
glanced back, my buttocks purple
scars savoring the hurt from asylum
A New Age progression in Beat Poetry from the roots of the Confessional storytelling of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. A brilliant poetic offering, a magical study in emotional violence that honours the gift of Sylvia Plath to literature and the world. La Belle Ajar by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda.
Available @ CLASH Books
The inside of the Paris salon, a fantasia of the arts/music and underground culture scene of the early 1970's with
newly arisen British bands mounting the diaspora. A fantastical write originally published in French with a
beautifully written Translation by Jeffrey Zuckerman, Rose Poussiere/Dusty Pink by Jean-Jacques Schuhl resonates
as a poetic imagining. Jean-Jacques Schuhl (Poet, Writer) born in Marseille, France is the author of Ingrid Caven
that won him the Prix Goncourt (2000). He has also written Telex no. 1, Entrée des fantomes, and
Written entirely in poetic prose, the novella dreams in night moves in half begun half-ended thoughts expertly painted. As if everything and everyone is incredibly asleep, a haze of sweet smoke, the great unnamed malaise, the missing lover, an unnamed war in dance. A grand silence filled with memories, images, a montage in colours, an escape of music, fine silks and satins, feathers. As if experiencing the inside of the mirror, a series of images juxtaposed, presents a world of great light and darkness in which everyone has already died. Spinning, spinning out of the box, brilliant impressions of the machine, a dance that begins and loses a step, a movement out of time, becomes a casual grace not a misgiving. The Zen of silence out of time.
Inside the dressing rooms of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, the visiting Marlene Dietrich, the death of Brian Jones, the oeuvre of becoming, the oeuvre of loss, the magic of a place out of time.
" : brown, black, dusty pink, gray, dark turquoise, bilberry, rust, yellow, cream, honey, bottle green buried in the rubble where the detritus is strewn across coats and jewelry, like Berenice Maranhao, that young seventeen-year-old Brazilian woman from a photo published in France-Soir: dead in an earthquake, only two thirds of her face visible, but beautiful all the same, joists and debris forming her hat; the music still enveloping them all, connecting them to things that aren't there (the butcher shop facing the store), connecting them to each other - a weak link - all now dead, the turntable still turning and turning without anybody to listen - all these eyes wide open, calm, and dazed - like those of mannequins (nobody was ever able to perform that beautiful and furtive and simple act of using their thumbs and forefingers to shut their eyes)
Then blue turns to gray
blue turns to gray
And try as you may
A brilliant Avant Garde write, that stops time, captures a moment in poetry and then let's it go. This Writer suspects reads as well or better in French, Rose Poussiere/Dusty Pink by Jean-Jacques Schul. Unforgettable.
Available @ Amazon.com.
I'm not sure where to begin so why not begin with John Keats. I started to read him in 1973 when I was 23, a Signet
Classic paperback that didn't have all of the work, just the hits. I'd begun to write poetry at the age of 16, and
locally got a little famous, even winning a prize from the Pennsylvania Poetry Society that had a celebration in
Harrisburg where I got a hundred dollar check, which in 1965 was a lot. It kind of went to my head. My English teacher,
Mrs. Yaklich, who had sent the winning poem to Harrisburg, had a colleague at Millersville State College, Dr. Lingenfelter,
who had been good friends with Robert Frost. Through him she sent some of my poems to Louis Untermeyer and John Wheelock,
who responded, especially Untermeyer, with some praise for my work. At 16 I had no idea what I was doing, why people
liked it or what the fuss was about. "You pick an image," my friend Fred Harris said, "and you go with it."
I began to emulate the crazy artist - you had to be crazy - I swallowed that myth. I would say to Crazy Youth now, "Don't try to be crazy; life's crazy enough." But what does youth know? The poetry I wrote began to copy others because I had no idea who I was. I gave up. I flunked out of college, drifted here and there, had menial jobs. I was ashamed of myself. But in 1973, Whitman and Keats, reading them encouraged me to write poems again, especially one I wanted to call Fucking. That would grab people's attention, and it was going to be long like Song of Myself or Endymion. In certain ways Walt showed me how to be a poet, and in another way John showed me how to sound. And what their gift was: I remained myself.
In 1976, I bought a Penguin paperback of John Keats, the complete works - the Signet Class was worn to shreds - with a painting of Diana and Endymion of the cover, and I took it with me when I went to the South Mountain to finish my first draft of Fucking. It was all in pieces and I was determined during my stay to put it all together in one flowing piece. The plan was to stay for a week. I pitched my tent where a stream from springs falls down the mountainside over huge rocks the size of dinosaurs, a beautiful spot close to where I grew up, solitary, the perfect place to create. I brought along a lot of oranges, raisins and figs which would keep, a lot cheese, an ounce of pot, John Keats, and LSD. There's was mint and berries to gather, and I'd drink from the stream. In Philadelphia at this time there were performance poets. The first and the one I really liked was Marty Watt. When I watched Marty, I felt instinctively that what I had to do was memorize Fucking and give it one flow. I was determined to finish it's and perform.
It was July. I had during that summer a handsome stoned lover in Philly who smelled of patchouli, and in the mountain that smell was everywhere, a fragrance that brought an erotic life to things when I remembered him, and read Endymion. On acid with the rocks and trees becoming the spirits of nymphs and satyrs embodying them, I would stand up on a rock and recite Fucking out loud. Once I started, I could not stop. I had to get through it no matter what. It was work when I got to a broken spot and had to create a bridge to keep the poem real and flowing. Here is a part of the poem about making love to the earth, which was what I was feeling at the moment as I spoke it:
I go into the forest
alone and hidden in the ever breathing
to dig an indenture with my fingers
and undressing, kneeling down
pierce the dead leaves
to move among the earthworms
balled in the mouth of corpses
out of which all things come growing
so occupied with the desire
I had no choice in choosing
but endlessly complete
I do not crush or brush away
the gnat and deer fly lightning
on my buttocks, shoulder, thighs
sucking their existence from my skin.
I let them knowing I am
nothing more and nothing less
than a sustenance for others needing
what they have no choice in choosing.
I clutch the grass with tightened fists
and kiss the orb that held my birth
and holds my death
spinning me through the universe
toward universes limitless
as one slender vine of wild rose
comes to scrape along my ribs.
One night I heard other campers a little ways off over the sound of the waterfalls. I'm not afraid of camping alone; I'm not afraid of the dark, but the voices, unexpected and unwanted, were menacing. The next morning a pretty much naked Tarzan came crashing through the bushes, barefooted through the thorny brush. All he had on was a torn pair of jeans practically torn down to nothing - I mean you could see his testicles. There were three campers: this Tarzan fellow, a transexual with shoulder-length hair who at the time was a man with breasts, but was going very soon to John Hopkins for a sex change, and someone I knew, the younger brother of a classmate from high school, whose name was David Donley, who sadly would die of AIDS some twenty years later. But at the moment, David put a face on this pansexual menagerie, and convinced me I was not hallucinating. I recited some of Fucking for them. They approved, thought the title was wonderful, and then they were gone leaving me alone to carry on.
Poets memorizing their work is a good thing. Memorizing the work also helps to edit it; only what's necessary remains. Poetry is traveling one place to another, and when you memorize it, you get rid of the excess baggage because it is too heavy to carry - as you get down to the essential you begin to feel comfortable and able to go on with what at that spoken moment is really the truth. By the end of the week I could recite Fucking from one end to the other. The spirit of Keats is certainly in it, but the poem is mine, and the spirit of the place, but most of all it is the determination.
A decade or so later at an East Village poetry reading, I recited the part of Fucking about fucking the earth, and Richard Hell, who was also reading, recited a poem - I believe from memory too - of coming upon a doe in the woods and having oral sex with her. I've been thinking of getting a hold of Richard Hell and see if he remembers and has it. I'd like to put him on my blog reading it. I see him around. You must be sure in this crazy time of ours to have something to look forward to.