March 19th, 2008
Review by Allen Taylor
by Patrick Carrington
1 Arden Lane
New Paltz, NY 12561
2007, 32 pp., $10.00
As the deer thirsts for the streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God. My soul thirsts for the living God.
Rarely does a poet glow with grace on every page, but Patrick Carrington is no every day poet. Carrington won the Codhill Poetry Chapbook Prize for 2006. In 2007, Thirst burst forth a tall glass of water. Cool, refreshing, clear as cubes of ice.
Patrick Carrington is no stranger to Rattle, however. He did have a Thirst poem published in the pages of this journal: Learning History in Nursery School, the first poem in the chapbook:
For a month, rain slid down on silk ropes
like a spider was wrapping us
in a sad and sturdy home.
So begins our ride on celestial wings as faithful as a prayer. Carrington opens his award-winning chapbook with these lines and the read through the following 31 pages is like repeated trips to the altar of quenching. Thirst is aptly named.
Whether filling readers with visions "blurry as puddles of gasoline" or schooling us with the first lessons of grace, Carrington treats the metaphor with delicate touches and delivers every turn of phrase like a new art. Nothing stale lives here. One of my favorite lines: "I recognize my middle-age nostalgia / for old rebellions."
Like the Magnificat, one walks away from these lines, taken from The Information Age, with a soft knowing that great things, even if we've never seen them ourselves, once happened and can happen again. The entire poem just rolls with incredible lines, as if taken from the highest echelon of the ionosphere:
I buy a round with my right hand
and lecture a legion of lost angels
on the witness protection program
of our lost souls.
for our sins in bad gravity.
in the thrillparks of fast delight,
have become malignant charismatics
like the kerosene drunks
of the Depression, philosophizing
on the black holes of our lives
things ain't like they used to be,
wear self-pity on our sleeves.
In the midst of his own sublimity, Carrington unintentionally alludes to his own lyrical splendor: "In each word there is a glory, / in each glory a story."
And in a phantom ending, Carrington reminds us to be brave again, but not today, proving that poetry is not all petals of beauty dipped in rose red wine. It's better. Even when cynical or when butt-ugly.
One forgets in reading Thirst that Carrington's poetry is full of alliteration, enjambment, simile. The elements are there, but they aren't kicking you in the shins. There is something deeper, more meaningful in the words themselves and the ideas behind them. His poetry is not mere word play; it is playfulness on a higher level. He pulls the strings of empyreal idea and lofty ideals through the buttonholes of verbs and nouns. These are poems of a new age without genuflecting to the New Age.
Twenty-two well-crafted poems. Not a single bent nail. A glance through the table of contents reveals a mind that puts as much energy into crafting the right title as the poem that goes with it:
- Finding the Sound of Oak
- In the Cedar Boxes of Our Souls
- A Heraldry of Hands
- Sunday Noon at First Baptist
- The Kinship of Deer
- The Taste of Apples Underground
- The Logic for Improving a Neighborhood
- Searching for Things to Worship
- Fresh Light
Carrington has that rare gift of being metaphysical without condescending or patronizing and in presenting spiritual lifts without splurging on sentimentalism. His poems walk us down to the stream so that we can dip our own noses in. Like a wise man, he knows you can't force the animal to drink even when you have led him to the water. Carrington leads us; to follow is an act of grace.
Reading Thirst is like reading Hafiz in the Garden of Eden with a metonymic eyeglass. The Tree of Life is Carrington's craft, his golden trumpet of language tears down the walls of personal Jerichos as he sprinkles them with holy water that is "cleansing rain" and "that washes spotted sidewalks" of salivating souls. All that is left is Ascension.
Allen Taylor writes the daily WorldClassPoetryBlog.com and is webmaster of World-Class-Poetry.com. He has self-published two chapbooks and is currently revising a volume poems he wrote while stationed in Iraq in 2005 with his National Guard unit.