Gene Frumkin's review of 'Lay the Marble Tea'
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Step toward Perception: A Review of Lay the Marble Tea

by Gene Frumkin?

This is a small book — reading time ten to fifteen minutes — of tiny observations and comments on a variety of subjects. The book's chief characteristic is crispness. I don't believe the following could be better put:

I watched a man in a cafe fold a slice of bread as if he were folding a birth
certificate or looking at the photograph of a dead lover.
-- In a Cafe

And for crisp, lucid commentary:

A circle
comes complete
with its
own grave.
-- Geometry

But the poems are not all of this kind. Probably a good half of them are experiments on the theme of the Unexpected Insight. Irrational poems whose only logic is irrational (and isn't that what much poetry is about?). Yet, if you cannot feel the truth of their illogic, you must call them failures. Some of these, then, I would have to reject on that ground ... but cautiously, for when I ask myself, "Is this guy just another screwball trying to capitalize on the ever-present market for screwballity?" I have to answer with an emphatic "no." Brautigan seems rather to be working toward an individual and fruitful perception. For example, the unsonnetlike poem called "Sonnet":

The sea is like
an old nature poet
who died of a
heart attack in a
public latrine.
His ghost still
haunts the urinals.
At night he can
be heard walking
around barefooted
in the dark.
Somebody stole
his shoes.

There is an authentic sound and movement to this poem; and many of the others feel the same way. This first book is good ore. What is needed now is to dig hard for the subject that goes with the method. What is Brautigan's bit of world? His method will ripen, I think, as that bit is finally discovered and explored.

Coastlines?, 13
Autumn 1959: 45

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