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Patrick Lawler

Forfatter af Reading a Burning Book

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Associated Works

McSweeney's Issue 22: Three Books Held Within By Magnets (2007) — Bidragyder — 338 eksemplarer, 4 anmeldelser
The Ecopoetry Anthology (2013) — Bidragyder — 49 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse

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Underground was published by a small press called Many Mountain Moving Press, which seems to be the one-man operation of Jeffrey Ethan Lee. Unexpectedly, I found myself quite affected by the book, which is, indeed, a sort of memoir, or more precisely, the account of a father rendered by a son. Unexpectedly, since generally I am quite suspicious of any rendering of world or word into binaries, such as dark/light; interior/exterior; above/beneath; shadow/sun, etc. For some reason, I accepted such tropes in the context of this book, a fact that I am still mulling over. Underground is structured as an alternation between an interview with the author by Paul B. Roth that appeared in Bitter Oleander in 2009 and selections of Lawler's poetry (these seem to date from the 1990s to the present). Although Underground is already a hybrid-genre text (poems, interview, a few photos, bio of father, bio of author), strangely enough, I felt myself wanting it to go even further in that direction. I found the alternation between interview sections and poems a bit too predictable.

When the author chose the title Underground, he was not using a metaphor. For, as he states at the beginning of the interview with Paul Roth: "As a child I lived in a cellar for seven years. We had intended to live in a house like everyone else, but my father broke his back and only the cellar was finished." (5) The cellar (the beneath) and the father (broken) are the two primary concerns or motifs of the book.

I have a slightly different take on the cellar-house. When I was two or 3 (1951) I moved into a new house with my parents and older sister. The house was situated in the middle of the block between a large old Victorian and a partially-built house. Our neighbors had moved into the basement of that house, much as Lawler's family had around the same time (1950s). I thought the house strange, but not particularly scary or negative. Our neighbors, too, undoubtedly hadn't had the money to complete their house all at once. However, their basement was a finished one and completely functional. It was bit dark, since the windows were the small ones common to Midwestern basements of the time. I don't remember how many years passed before the upstairs or real house was completed and the family next door moved in (and up). The middle child of that family became my first real playmate. Curious the underground house was, certainly, but our neighbors were in no way cellar-dwellers in the sense evoked by Patrick Lawler. One difference, perhaps, is that Lawler's cellar was, as he notes, the foundation of his grandparents' house that had once burned down. In other words, it wasn't the basement of a "new" house, but a remnant of an old one. The roof had at one time been a floor, rather than being a roof that would someday become a floor. Directions (up/down, inside/outside) here are consequential.
There's much language in Underground that I found appealing & evocative. The following is but a sample:
"but my destiny was to be a root."
"I'd take out/ the thin insides of pens for veins."
"I leave the rivers running all night."
"I watched things die around my father's hands."
"The ashtray crisscrossed with songlines"

… (mere)
Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |


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