The poems of John David Ebert echo so much of the visions of Brian George ( and something of the language they share). The dimensions of timelessness and stratospheric origins are overwhelming, they reduce opinion to inconsequential. One is captured, but tied down, squealing yes, yes I see. But what do I understand? An insignificance for which only silence is appropriate.
I had not heard of John David Ebert before. These poems are my first introduction to him. Out of curiosity I listened a little to him talk on his YouTube channel too. Brilliant guy. One thing he and Brian George appear to share is an uncanny lucidity in putting things in context and explaining them from multiple angles and perspectives, their intelligences humming along almost like machines or kinds of technology in their own right. But from my first impression I sense real differences too. I think in Brian’s work there’s more existential vertigo and disorientation. What he writes breaks one open, pushes beyond limits, really leaving one exposed. Sometimes I feel aggravated by Brian’s work, perplexed and bewildered by the racking up of so many puzzles and paradoxes without relief. But that’s a main part of its virtue; its challenge is not make-believe but quite real. It’s less a writing for savoring like food and drink as a connoisseur and more a writing for exercising one’s muscles and vitals and toning up one’s spiritual body, in preparation for survival, and for war.
There’s something more edifying about these poems by John David Ebert, something familiar even in their strangeness, with something of the safety and enjoyment one gets when the doors are closed and the lights are turned off for the watching of a movie. There’s natural fluidity to these poems, a story-telling.
I love all these. I really enjoy Lilith. John David Ebert turns the “Eve formed of Adam’s rib” myth on its head. I see in his poem a reference to David Cronenberg’s body horror cinema, in particular his early film Rabid, starring 70’s porn actress Marilyn Chambers, where the character she plays gets an experimental graft under her armpit after a motorcycle accident and it turns into a kind of vampiric sex organ or bloodsucking appendage, a combination of fang and penis. Just like it’s said that so many guys think with their penises, the organ completely takes her over, and she needs to feed and satiate it to stay alive. She uses her sex appeal to seduce victims; and afterward they turn into vicious foamy-mouthed zombies. In the poem the “pulsing, throbbing orifice” which opens in the man’s side is vaginal. A strange shape is born out of it, a “wet thing.” I can even see in the poem a vague reference at the stage when the slimy gray form born out of him, is “strange and shaped like he”, to the bizarre alien baby in David Lynch’s Eraserhead. I even thought of the 80’s horror-comedy Basket Case, where Siamese Twins are separated at birth, and one brother carries around in a basket his dwarfish, hideously deformed, monstrous other half who holds him under telepathic power, and forces him to procure human victims for him to eat.
The ending of the poem Lilith is a stroke of genius. All the grumbling complaints of man toward woman as a mate are felt briefly, in the abbreviated metamorphosis; and when the metamorphosis is finally complete, the “creature” born out of him is revealed to be a bird, which only grunts and flies away. Something is also humorous about this poem. Man as woman’s keeper and protector is invoked in having him keep the creature in a box, like a pet, then when it grows too big for that one, in having him need to build a bigger box for it. From small apartment in the projects to mansion is suggested, from modest beginnings and poverty to riches and decadent ostentation by a harpy. It pokes fun every so briefly and slightly of the “battle of the sexes”, material which will always be a staple of comedians. Interesting that John David Ebert doesn’t allow the bird the ability to sing. Women’s liberation isn’t denied, only the false and deceptive form is, the creature which is only a double, born out of a fallacious idea. The conclusion of the poem is more a liberation from and leaving behind of the old “Eve born out of Adam’s rib” myth. That old myth never had much one could sing about in it anyway.
Autumn leaf is wonderful in its plain freshness of expression. That’s its beauty. It’s a variation of William Blake’s poem:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
There’s something of the graphic sensibility of old comic books in the poem, “When the Moon was Gigantic”. The moon as cheese. The moon of the imagination. The moon before the first landing of Man on it. Volcanoes rupture the earth… like an “accordion” of rippled stone. “Ribbons” of liquid rock. Accordion and ribbons make it seem like an object one can touch like a maquette or model for a stage set. Mannerism and stylization of nature. 50’s sci-fi cinema is in the sensibility, maybe a bit of the Incredible Shrinking Man, perhaps extending back to the beginning of cinema with Georges Melies’ 1902 short film “A Trip to the Moon”.
The last poem “Making” is disarming and lovely and wise in its simplicity. I adore this poem. Nothing needs to be added. The last two stanzas are simply beautiful and move me deeply.
Nearly forgot about the short poem “Nietzsche” tucked in here. No doubt I do a piss-poor job trying to sum up these poems. One must start in somewhere in an attempt to get a handle.
Interesting choice of words that Nietzsche was warped by loneliness, sickness and poverty. Instead of warped it might be considered the other way around. It’s hard to know for sure. It might have been thus: With what began as warped, an impressive pulling taut of the bow, a gathering of tremendous tension, and a shooting of arrows and hitting of targets at great distances with deadly accuracy, and finally a loss of strength and a snapping and collapsing. Interesting too that his thinking is considered as being sliced out, like an act of violence to himself, as if in some sense he performed a lobotomy on himself.
It might be argued that those were not gods which took him.
The ignition of John Dockus by these poems, an extensive forest fire of associations and evocations should be equally celebrated. He is undoubtedly readily flammable, greedy for immersion in heat and light. No more laudatory response for any writer setting a match poem to kindling and watching sparks spiral into the sky.