A NATURAL HISTORY OF SUCHNESS by STEPHEN ELLISALLEN BRAMHALL Reviews
A Natural History of Suchness by Stephen Ellis
(Auguste Press, 2001)
Stephen Ellis's work possesses a distinctive energy and acceleration. Often his poems flare out with centripetal intent. In trying to describe the concatenation of ideas that occurs in such instances, I'm tempted to apply the term run-on sentence. Not in the bad sense, certainly. His poems avoid hard stops because ideas are not so easily framed. His work proceeds with a spiraling intensity, deriving from a political interest that is anything but dogmatic. His poems begin suddenly and build momentum. I think the mantra of one idea immediately following the next applies here. Stephen actively thinks in his writing, poking margins, leaping intuitively. His poems don't resolve so much as comprise. Here's a poem from the book:
That it all comes down to nothing, vocabulary,
diction, grammar, syntax, style, all given over to
man's conception of God's having given him The Word
from elsewhere, a mediant place between
somewhere and nowhere that exists between our lips. Or that it is
a structure, struere, straw left in the image pressed by
the weight and shape of the animal that has already
got up and left. Evidences and intimations. Hear the pitter-patter
of little feet on the forest floor? It's your heartbeat. The sky's
blue. & all you have to do, you know, is “be here.” Like
what part of zero don't you understand?
This poem seems both a general address and a highly personal one. I mentioned Stephen's political interest. For him, I think political might mean unity of situation. The larger world's problems have much to do with what is internally wrong with us. Some of his poems are downright tender, others fit closer with rage (a calm and thoughtful rage, I should say). All rely on a seriousness and earnest resilience to find their music.
I've known Stephen for some years. He's exceptionally well-read and vastly interested. He doesn't write prettily but with a forceful integrity to the poetic moment. I admire his work greatly and believe it should be much better known. Gentle Reader, take it from there.
Allen Bramhall has published one book, Simple Theory (Potes & Poets Press, 2002), maintains an electrifying blog called Tributary, and shares a birthday with Herman Melville, Jerry Garcia and Lt. William Clark.