Literary Arts: Book Review
Wolves That Lope Into Your Dreams
Rob Carney's 88 Maps
Every now and then I run across a poem so tasty I’m greedy for more by the same poet, which is how I felt after finding Rob Carney’s prize winning “Seven Pages from The Book of Sharks” on terrain.org. The poem tells a wholly invented myth of sharks in plainspoken and often lighthearted language. I could imagine Carney’s sharks swimming through a children’s book illustrated with circling fins and toothy jaws. In one stanza the poet becomes a child talking to another boy who tells him, “Sharks are the ocean’s way of talking./Like talking with your hands.”
Storytelling is characteristic of Carney’s poetry. One of his previous collections even bears the title “Story Problems” (2011), and it includes a particularly lovely set of poems featuring apocryphal “Old Songs about Washington,” telling tales of bears, salmon, whales and other denizens of the wet, green Pacific Northwest where Carney grew up. Nowadays Carney is a professor of English and Literature at Utah Valley University and his latest book, 88 Maps: Poems, finds the poet striving to become native to this place despite surges of homesickness.
The mysterious maps of the title poem are discovered in a carefully constructed cabinet left in the basement of the poet’s new house by some unknown previous inhabitant. These maps chart a baffling new landscape showing, the small concavity above his cat’s bones/ where loosened dirt/ sunk slowly in the rain, and strangely detailed, tidal charts of his room-to-room movements,/ the constellations of upstairs furniture. The mapmaker is no malevolent spirit, however. He has thoughtfully provided, a map of the Salt Lake metro area/ in case I’d moved from out of state, which the poet uses to swat a wasp. At least it wasn’t a honeybee. The metaphorical stage is set for the poet to find his way, though he is exiled in the dry Utah desert.
Seems like every weekend in the summer here, someone wants to take you down to Moab. You go there and hang out, and marvel at nature and beauty. Like it’s your job. writes Carney in the prose poem “Undercurrents,” and then segues into a story about growing up in Washington State. He ponders the question of how to find a new home by shopping and under the section heading “Home Appraisals,” the poems are based on real estate ads—“Two Story, Stone and Brick, Single-Family Dwelling:” If there’s added value in a ceiling fan,/ then there must be value in a hawk. Or “2,140 Square Feet:” says nothing at all about the unsquare angles.
Carney’s poetic impulse is to turn everything into a myth, and he makes an admirable effort to find poetry in the antics of the Utah Legislature and their Republican cronies (Carney makes no secret of his politically liberal views; in response to a particularly flattering comment addressed to him at a writing conference he wishes he had said, thanks for calling my poems open-minded./ That seems a good measure to go by. I won’t forget).
My favorite title in this entire collection belongs to a poem called, “To the Representative on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Who in 2012 Said, ‘Evolution, Big Bang Theory, all That Is Lies Straight from the Pit of Hell, ‘ I Offer This Quick Study on Natural Selection, in Which the Eagle is Thought; the River is Reason; the Salmon Is Insight; Tomorrow Is a Salmon; and the Crows, of Course, Are You.”
With a title that splendid you hardly even need a poem. A few of these political poems have footnotes to prove that regardless of whimsy and poetic license, Carney is absolutely not making some things up.
Despite this sense of ambivalence, and a poem that laments, “Every Place I’ve Ever Lived is Gone,” Carney comes down on the side of trying to form real connections to people and place. He rails against the dead-alive virus of consumerism, and the eagle-free landscapes of developments with names like “Eagle Ridge, Eagle Crest, Eagle View.” The final poem, “In the Only Zombie Flick I’ll Watch,” says, it isn’t brains they’re after./ It’s our phones. So hang up and read. These delightful poems tread a line between politics and poetics, finding enchantment in a neighbor who brings over apple cider and chats about raccoons, an owl hunting in the yard, and wolves that lope into your dreams.
88 Maps: Poems
Lost Horse Press
Up and Upcoming: To The North
Exhibition Listings in Northern Utah
Kimball Art Center UP: Illiminations of Africa's Wildlife: Its Beauty, Its Struggle to Survive: Photographs by Beverly Joubert.
Joubert’s work is a call to action. Big cats, rhinoceros, and elephants are in crisis, facing extinction after years of rampant poaching and habitat loss. As artists, conservationists, and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Beverly and her husband, Dereck Joubert, have spent decades fighting for these beloved creatures. Through their internationally renowned wildlife films and other conservation efforts, the Jouberts celebrate the stunning beauty and power of these animals, urging viewers to recognize the consequences of inaction.
With stories of this fight for survival, Beverly Joubert’s photographs demonstrate the artist’s deep compassion for her subjects. Her work at the Kimball Art Center is accompanied by thoughts, lessons, and illuminations by the Jouberts of their 30 year journey with some of the world’s most remarkable wildlife.
Gallery MAR UPCOMING: Jylian Gustlin's Saltito, opening February 12. AND: Matt Flint, Nurtured by Nature. "I am an observer, a believer in beauty, and a painter. My paintings are of animals and the raw intricate beauty of the natural world. These things connect me to the mysterious, the poetic, and to myself."
Meyer Gallery UPCOMING: New works by Jeff Pugh. AND: New works by Brian Kershisnik,
Julie Nester Gallery UP:
Crossings; an exhibition of abstract, organic paintings by Audra Weaser. “Crossings” refers to those places where rivers or streams may be traversed, as well as to mental states of pause or reflection. The paintings suggest watery scenes pierced by light; there is a vibratory contrast between elements that shimmer with recognition, yet remain elusive. And it is there where viewers may find themselves with a heightened feeling of awareness.
JGO Gallery UPCOMING: Inception, works by Greta van Campen, Ezra Siegel, Kevin Earl Taylor and Rose Umerlik.
Second State: Elaine Coombs and Heather Patterson. .
Trove Gallery UPCOMING: Anna Kaferle.
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art UP: Transcendence: Abstraction & Symbolism in the American West. Highlighting works from the NEHMA Collection, this exhibition explores how artists have employed the use of abstraction and symbolism in the American West over the past century (see our review page 4). AND: A Matter of Taste: Art, Kitsch and Culture. Showcasing a wide range of kitsch, kitsch-like, or kitsch-inspired objects dating to the 20th and 21st centuries, this exhibition reveals the permeable and porous boundaries between fine art, kitsch, and popular culture.
Brigham City Museum of Art and History UP: Spirited: Prohibition in America.
The exhibit features Prohibition-era photos, artifacts, interactive touchscreen kiosks, videos and music. Local photographs about liquor and tobacco in Northern Utah from 1850 on will also be on view, specifically Rudolph Keyser’s Saloon (interior view); the Willard Winery and Brewery; the Combination Saloon, Corinne; the Pearl Saloon, Garland; and the Billiard Hall, Brigham City.
Eccles Community Art Center UP: 15th Black & White Statewide Art Competition Exhibition.
Shaw Gallery UP: Annual juried student exhibition. UPCOMING: We are the People, guest curated by Wendy Red Star, brings together a group of contemporary indigenous artists from both the United States and Canada who are changing and shaping pre-conceived notions about history, rituals and spiritualism. Featuring: Amelia Winger-Bearskin,Elisa Harkins, Tanis S'eiltin, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Duane Linklater, John Feodorov, Peter Morin, Raymond Boisjoly.
HOWA GALLERY UP: Be My Valentine, featuring work by Meredith Franck, Sierra M. Dickey and Kami Kahler.
BDAC UP: Animalia is an exhibit that depicts animals of all kinds. Participating artists include: Jennifer Deily, Karyn Feeney, Joni Flint, Kirt Harmon, Lucia Heffernan, Phil Hopkins, Brent Hale, Betta Inman, Linda Kalmar, Christine Kende, Rebecca Lee, Richard Miles, Deborah Shurtleff, Sandy Williams and Joan Zone. The works in this exhibit are paintings in various mediums plus pieces in ceramics and glass. UPCOMING: Illustrators Utah! a juried competition. AND: Will Terry and Jake Parker in the Annex Gallery. AND: Paul Mann and Richard Brown in the Underground Gallery.