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Waldo Emerson said that when we travel, we take ourselves along, & (I
thought that he meant) the self was the same. But something happens to the
susceptible traveler (Hawthorne, Melville, James...& more recently,
Ginsberg, Snyder, Merton). The self is put through a time/space/culture
factory that changes it forever. Coolidge's At Egypt is the first account
from inside the factory during the process of being dis-assembled &
put together into a recognizable but toally different shape. This is real
news not to be confused with authorized versions, official reports, leaks
from inside the Administration. Tie your scarf over the top of your hat
and under your chin before you start to read.
It is hard to imagine a more generative writer than Clark Coolidge, nor one whose range and influence is more total. At Egypt, a major poem in eleven sections, is a series of "gestures in rock," and like the leaving of stones on a desert--see Tanguy--marks time and place, a monument and an alphabet, monadic and nomadic. Monads are complex, and offer a certain resistance to the mental traveler; but stone is also crystalline. There is complexion, light diffused and reflected on sand. Egypt is the darkness (swallowed shadows "near a rodent throne") in which Coolidge moves his verbal flashlight. Signing is singing on a bed of Nileside straw--travel: trave: rave: ave. It is a pleasure to encounter such largeness, benignity, shrewdness, and joy.
Copyright 2003 Geoffrey Young. All Rights Reserved