Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Poem: Aaron Shurin

I cannot find my copy now (it is hidden among the shelves of writing study books that this summer will enjoy reorganization), but Aaron Shurin's (1947-) A's Dream (O Books, 1989), was one of those revelations that serendipity in a bookstore brought me. I had never heard of him or his work, pulled the book off the shelf, realized quickly that I could not put it down, and then read it a number of times, letting its lush, lyrical language seep in and steep. A queer text in theme and form, it enfolds you in its prose, particularly the sequence "City of Men," which I read as specifically about San Francisco, where Shurin has lived for many years and where he directs MFA program at the University of San Francisco, but which I analogized to many an urban setting.

What I particularly love about this sequence is the specificity in the elusiveness; there is something always both before you and just out of reach, like desire itself, though what also overshadows this series of poems is the AIDS pandemic, which was well underway when Shurin wrote the poems. The poems incorporate that horror, but also each day's quotidian beauties. About his work Shurin has said (according to Wikipedia): "Poetry remains for me an act of investigation, by which the imagination makes itself visible in a real world - and through which the inhabitants of that realer world become dimensional." As the little snippet below demonstrates (the "disappear" is not a typo, just to be clear), we can see an imagination crystallizing in words; desire, a life, a world rendered, in its complexity, as poetry.


I heard my name, the day rose and disappear over the beach. the day on each breath tasted my food,that night roll slowly cover in the cool, his face around my breast. the day inhaling grow pale and disappear, water on his way, up the shores hissing. under the night stillness inclined my morning beach, undressing the friend of my liquid, my most same. at evening while whispering from the bed by me, his way was accomplished. his full perfect arm a health of ripe waters. the day received moon laughing, love lay me that night.

Copyright © Aaron Shurin, from The Paradise of Forms: Selected Poems, Jersey City: Talisman House, 1999. All rights reserved.

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