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Shiftless(Harvester): in minimalist spaces.


Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: Shiftless(Harvester)

Author: Buck Downs

Publisher: above/ground press

Date of Publication: 2016

Pages: 24


“T’aint no big thing
To wait for the bell to ring
T’aint no big thing
The toll of the bell”
- from Love is the Drug by Roxy Music


Shiftless(Harvester), the rage in the beat, the rage in the wind, fantastical Beat influenced poetry in the New Age Renaissance from American Poet Buck Downs. Buck Downs (Poet, Writing Coach, Member of the Board for the District of Columbia Arts Center) a native of Jones County, Mississippi lives and works in Washington, D.C. His latest book of poetry is Tachycardia (2015).

Poet Downs’ poetry is a masculine perspective on the sex and war economy North America. The poetry is based in rural route America, lives in images of automobiles, marriage, nature, war, the agricultural industry, and lingers in themes of violence and lost/misconstrued love.

“left under

           meltdown elevator
           down memory lane
same song, second verse
third spouse, mighty kind

           one a them
           two a them
                       hot cross
a few a them

           all because we feel like
           rocking the sick flow,
             the cause of poesie
             power and beauty

              any genius
make or model

                        sloe-eyed
            street aloe
coca cola blonde

                        I keep a button
              from her winter coat
                        in my back pocket
              for memory, and for luck –

The nature imagery, roses, cherry trees, bees, horses, birds, stars, phoenix, jewel provides a living force counterpoint to the masculine and violence of the minimalist beat, as if weaving breath into the dance with death.

“vertigo lite

suffocated single child
                          twenty five
                                      years later
              she came up for air
                              & a cocktail
              conversation
she was not my boss
and I let her

              the jewel of her moan
              a rattle in the building”

The poetry is minimalist, borrowing from the Imagist school and bangs out in the staccato rhythms of a reinvented Beat Poetry tradition, traveling across the page, dancing with empty spaces. The beat of the poetry, is like a chant for the dead. The language rolls out in cadence, a dance with meme and slang, repetitive words and phrases creating a holistic rendering, a new take on apocalypse poetry. The violence and karmic dissonance of ended love affairs manifesting the dance at the end of the world. In bare and bones, the truth-telling in poetry is the story of the land, the story of the lost America, looking for a new day.

“night hydro

jim beam incognito
as if sight were the only sense
and even a blind man could tell
that we were getting stank up, yall –

shall the rose bush grow
where the cherry once stood

                         and with dung and bees
            covered with dung and bees
            when the nicotines
no longer lay waste
                             to us all –

let’s rough the fuck out
let’s just wade
right into
the war on broken hearts

            days when you whisper
            nights when you cry

sounds like some horsemen

             all the burnt parts
             still rule inside

This poetry is reminiscent of the minimalist style of Canadian Poet Stephen Bett, the tight rolling silences and broken spaces in a very few words, yet existing as the American imprint. A fantastical rendering in minimalist spaces, Shiftless(Harvester) by Buck Downs.

Available at above/ground press.

Genre: Poetry, New Age





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