Thursday, January 15, 2015

David Gitin's Woke Up This Morning

I've written about David Gitin's work before, here, and here. As with his previous book, The Journey Home [Berkeley: Blue Wind Press, 2010], this is a selection of poems, subtitled "Selected Poems 1962-2014." I have then the feeling that Gitin is engaging his previous range of work as a fertile ground, revising and selecting and sifting from among its varied fruit, instances which speak to his changing sense of who he now is, and what it all meant, in retrospect. In that sense, it's a summing up, or a summary of the meaning of his whole writing life. 

The emphasis, here, now, seems to be the ecstatic or hieratic--celebrating the infinite, the universal, the visionary--




of oak


The simplicity of this kind of notation belies its hidden, though firmly grounded, sense of the underlying forces which govern nature, the universe at large. There's a joyous surrender to the larger dynamism of the world, particularly its lyric manifestations, in microcosm. 

The fact that the poems here are undated, and are apparently neither chronological nor thematic in arrangement, contributes to the apprehension of their numinous indeterminacy, which I see as integral to the overall intent. This isn't a personal history, not a journey, but a kind of continuous present that asks to be seen through a single, general lens. 

None of this explains the exquisite charm of Gitin's verse, which is like an alembic of a wistfully nostalgic counter-culture reminiscence, of a time when our generation believed in the power of individual conscience, community cooperation, grass-roots initiative, and the delight of simple gifts. 

Horse Ankles

horse ankles
deer thighs

they say I have my mother's 

Though the initial effect of such deft little snapshots like this is joy and delight, it isn't easy to convey the accretive impression they leave, when read in quantity. Though their brevity and flitting elusiveness suggest haiku or minimalism, they clearly come from a more embracing and universal vision. 

East West North South

East West North South
burning down the house

until water from the well
seasoned my lips

to words that mend
I see the face

of my ancestor
once again

Despite the fleeting, transitory quality of these poems, there runs underneath all of them a deeper account, evanescent but confirming, of the poet's awareness of cosmic forces--

Muir Beach Rockfest

    in sand


all form


Such quick graphs of observation and notation, when gathered together in sequence, create a wave of intention which tends to overwhelm the initial event, drawing our attention up into a higher state of consciousness, of--for want of a better term--the sublime. The antecedents to this approach would certainly include Oppen, and Eigner, the ancient Chinese. Gitin appears to have moved beyond the packed particulars of his earlier work, to a more consuming ecstatic, but his work is always just saved from vagueness by its specificity and clear clinical eye. And there's a crucial restraint in his method.


moon frozen like some giant
watery cell of speech

The desire to see universals or deeper significances in ordinary phenomena is characteristic of a certain kind of romantic visionary writing. Usually, I tend to be suspicious of this tendency, but in Gitin's work, I'm never offended by it, perhaps because his assertions seldom rise to the level of direct conviction, are always hovering on the lip of belief--provisional, balanced. 

Though this book feels conclusive, I prefer to see it as conditional, since there seems no end to its program. May he find in Florida--"veneral soil" (Wallace Stevens)--a rich context for his continued musings.  


ValerieB said...

Amen to David's continued musings

JforJames said...

Thanks for the intro to Giten's poetry.

Stevens' soil is 'venereal'.