Sunday, January 25, 2009

Introducing Poet C. E. Chaffin

Due to the beneficence of Crystalwizard (also known as Kelly), the Grand Poobah of this whole operation, my first book of poetry in 11 years has just been released by one of her publishing arms, Diminuendo Press. It is entitled "Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008."

Here's the direct link: Unexpected Light

Nearly every poem in the collection has been previously published at least once. I've put in the work, publishing around fifty pieces a year for the last ten years. It was nice to finally be noticed by a publisher again.

What can you expect from my verse? The unexpected. I pride myself on the endings to my poems, hoping to launch you beyond your mind into the ineffable, or at the very least a confrontation with emotion. I aim to seize the reader by the throat and write so that the reader cannot not finish the poem. I live in terror of boring the reader, and I strive not to push language beyond the limits of communication. My poems are not riddles to be solved or exercises in language for it's own sake. My theory of Logopoetry declares that "Poetry should be intelligible without footnotes, explanations of technique or other intermediary bells and whistles. It should be written to communicate— not merely dazzle, tickle the unconscious, challenge syntactical norms, make music, or demonstrate the inscrutable intelligence of the author." (from Logopoetry II)

Thus I align myself with, among contemporary poets, Jack Gilbert and Mark Strand and others who prize substance over form, like the late William Stafford, though it needs to be said that in a good poet's hand, the substance will naturally adapt itself to the right form.

Here's an example from the book:

Home Surgery

Daughter, when I freed
the glass sliver from your heel
you screamed, you shook, your foot lurched—
so I gripped your ankle with all the firmness
love could muster.

Plucked from your sole, the fragment shone
like a jewel in the bathroom light,
while blood streamed, mixed with water,
into the white altar of the sink.

At the moment you hurt more
from my maneuvering,
did you doubt me?

That thought wounds my heart
more deeply than the matador
can bury his long blade.

(published in Blue Fifth Review)

To give you an idea of the depth of this collection, this poem was written 25 years ago, only recently published. So it's not quite fair to limit the work of the book to a decade. My previous book, "Elementary," did not include it because it was not part of that book's theme.

In any case the publisher asked me to introduce myself, so here I am. I'm open to any correspondence or inquiries you'd like to send my way. And on a weekly basis I'll be blogging here as well.

I believe with all my heart that if you buy this book you will not be disappointed.

It's been a labor of love full of the joy and frustration of work. In Malcom Gladwell's recent book, "The Outliers," he opines that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any endeavor. As I've been publishing for forty years I have more than exceeded his requirement. But have I achieved mastery? Never. As Robert Lowell said, "No work of art is ever finished, only abandoned." Some poems I have "abandoned" after seven years or more of noodling, and I can hardly look at an older piece without tweaking it a little. I am continually striving for greater mastery and think of myself as a student willing to learn from any source in what Dylan Thomas named "this craft or sullen art." Yet art need not be sullen; many of my poems cheerfully exalt the ordinary. Here's one more:

Chinese New Year in LA

The mayor waves from a Cadillac,
a vintage Biarritz in black;
the crowd ignores his clockwork palm.
China’s ambassador looks calm
in an antiquated Bentley,
his face a yellow poppy in a suit.
Scattered applause erupts politely.

Fantastic dragons, held aloft by sticks,
snake from curb to curb—red, green,
gold undulation of scales,
moth-furry heads dangling eyes
from springs like novelty glasses.
Happy, harmless dragons!
Year of the Horse, my birth year!

Thine in Truth and Art,

C. E. Chaffin M.D. FAAFP

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