In I Am Not Ariel, Rusty Barnes drives us down back roads and we realize that our own hometown legends are the legends that haunt this book. Perhaps we share the same gravel driveways, or the same morning dew that never fails to bring a shimmer of beauty to a world defined by its opposite. These poems make pacts beneath bare light bulbs and in the crooks of trees, in places poems don’t ordinarily go, but should.
--Mary Biddinger, author of O Holy Insurgency and Saint Monica
I'd like to point out that Mary also called these poems 'ferocious,' which pleased me to no end.
I Am Not Ariel by Rusty Barnes is certainly not Plath-like or mermaid girly. It’s more like an animalistic dog with “malformed haloes” and “crazy shapes I’ve never seen forming / from their fingers like spiderwebs.” Some of its young male content brought Frank Stanford to my mind and I mean that as a huge compliment. Rusty Barnes’ poem “He Moons Over the Covered Bridge” got me thinking about Frank Stanford’s “The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You” - and certainly not just because of the word moon; but because of the power of a man uniquely defining how he describes his own life experience – from highs to lows to tricks to the mistakes he does not regret.
Rusty Barnes does not want to fake perfection or conform to normal life and TV screen boredom; he wants to open up pieces of life’s imperfections. Beating and sinking and shooting spurts and strange cascades of fireworks exploding in a “blast off like pneumatic drills,” brimming with sex and so-called love and desires and real life violence. Sometimes the real life down and dirty country scenes are juxtaposed in between bad dreams and splashes of obscurity and slashes of horror movie line ups like “ a coffee can / with crayfish from the crick and the eyes of bluegills // popped from their sockets with a jackknife.”
--Juliet Cook, author of Poisonous Beautyskull Lollipop
From straw in the crotch to beating back wild dogs, urgent sex on the hoods of cars to freckles like a woman’s skin’s sky, Barnes’s poetry is always real, always present, and ready, half the time, to remind you of the sort of Eros and Thanatos combinations that make his words both so dangerous and so virile. Transgressive, bold, this poet’s viewpoint is that of a durable man in an unforgiving landscape, presenting both the “cynicism and suspicion of the proletariat” in some turns--and the gratifying necessity of sating a man’s animal needs in others. Barnes can be as eloquent about poetic settings as Whitman but as carnally drawn to women’s flesh as any hot-blooded American male. There is an aggression in these poems, the sense of a strong man prone to temptation and diversion, this at contrast with the old women depicted shelling peas, bittersweet parenting notes on the subject of raising children, and an intense romanticism and sensitivity that flits out only in the rare moments when the reader is ready to be seduced. In short, Barnes can take you anywhere with this book—and his lines are so elegantly sculpted that they contribute to the sense of urgency his narratives create, present and corporal—like the scent of new-fallen blood or the vivacious clutch of a mesmerizing, confident, marauding hand.
--Heather Fowler, editor of Corium
Harsh, funny, dark, and tender, [Barnes's poems] will kick you into next week.
--Adrian C. Louis, author most recently of Savage Sunsets.
While predominantly written from a Calibanesque perspective, a delicate spirit is omnipresent throughout: when a father presses his daughter's brachial artery to stop the flow from a self-inflicted wound, in the souls of dead babies inhabiting stars, and old ladies shelling peas. His quirky characters make the reader consider what it is that saves us from ourselves. Barnes reminds us that while so much of life is ephemeral, our stories are eternal.
--Rebecca Schumejda, author of Cadillac Men
Clare Pollard, via Silliman's blog: take in the comments as well.
Squeezed by the recession and the big buyers, the half-dozen major presses are only accepting one or two or no debuts each year. Poets can end up spending years just waiting for rejections from them. The next step can be to try a small press, but they are nearly all run out of love and at a loss – if you’re lucky enough to accepted by one of them it can mean a more beautiful and better edited book, but also often no advance or book-shop distribution, and little marketing. They also frequently (and understandably) fold. Until its announcement this week that it was ceasing to publish single-author collections, for the last decade many have seen Salt as the best option – they seemed somewhere in the middle, with enough presence to at least have a shot at getting your book into shops and on prize-lists, and were taking on lots of new writers. The news that their poetry publishing will now be slashed to a single annual anthology is terrible for British poets.I mean, their list is bursting with talent: a whole, brilliant generation. People like Luke Kennard, Antony Joseph, Mark Waldron, Chris McCabe, Katy Evans-Bush, Julia Bird, Sian Hughes, Melanie Challenger, Simon Barraclough, Jon Stone, Kirsty Irving, Amy Key, David Briggs, John McCullough, Tom Chivers, Antony Rowland, Liane Strauss, Amy De’Ath, Sophie Mayer, Tamar Yoseloff, Tony Williams, Anna Woodford, Abi Curtis, Rob A Mackenzie, Andrew Phillips and Tim Dooley (to mention just a fraction). Seriously, where are all these poets going to go? Why couldn’t Salt find an audience for such an embarrassment of talent? The Arts Council seems happy to pour funding into encouraging a glut of aspiring writers, but what exactly are they supposed to aspire to when poets of this quality find themselves without a publisher for their next book?
OK. I can't recall if this is really unpublished, but let's treat it that way. I AM NOT ARIEL is due out in November 2013.
Describing a Bad Painting Describing, for Christ's Sake, Lost 'Love'
Look: the fat ass of the moon rises
Between sturdy legs of oak. That, is a 'love'
line. Try as I might, your memory fades
into dusk like a lost 'love' poem
might if 'love' truly ever lost
itself; o the skies reign now
in protest, a silver-blue mat
weeps lines of turpentine
on the vassals—us grounded
folk, the ones who don't know
'love'. It's a tired thing to try on
in a poem unless it's about the death
of 'love.' Like fate, God, azure skies
and creamy thighs, 'love' should not
enter a poem unless like a rabid wolf
it snaps at everyone in sight first
and goes off to drown in deep water
or under a rot-brown log,
snarling rip-toothed at a fallen leaf
when everything else is dark like
'love' and its aftermath; when
milk-white stars rise like pimples
around that fat-assed hunk
of cheese we call la lune
dans le langue d'amour
but what 'love' really says
Like porn, you know if you
feel it. No one, no painting like this
of big-legged blues women
petting a stray mutt will
make it for you. The real thing
evades and distorts and pummels
you into submission like a domme.
Ask for it even though it hurts,
accept the pain as your measure,
bow your head to it like the little
slut you are.
Posted by Rusty Barnes at 11:11:00 PM