Brendan Constantine's Bouncy Bounce
Say this aloud: the sky is not a river
It won’t deepen if you fall in. - from Bouncy Bounce
For those of you who’re not familiar with the poet Brendan Constantine, or have always wanted to read his work, and have yet to do so, a good place to start would be his new chapbook, Bouncy Bounce (© 2018 Blue Horse Press), or his back catalogue of excellent work.
More than Constantine’s other works, Bouncy Bounce, as the title suggest, is a buoyant volume of poetry; highly enjoyable, and quick to breeze through, until you find yourself mesmerized, and then, like a wayward ball on the playground, it smacks square you in the face. There’s a trick built into Bouncy Bounce, like that infamous scene from Lawrence of Arabia, where Lawrence imparts to Potter, his British comrade, “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”
Poetry should hurt, otherwise, what’s the point in writing/reading it. The more painful, the more memorable, and this is where, Constantine, like W. S. Merwin, succeeds beautifully. There’s an intimacy in Constantine’s poems, which make the reader feel like they’re being taken into his confidence, to share his upside-down view of the universe, in regards to family (“Open Heart Perjury” and “Crib”); anthropomorphism as a means of recognizing ourselves (“Field Trip” and “At a Stumble”); and who we truly are, in relation to, as well in our relationships with each other (“Out in the Air”), especially in, what I believe, is the most powerful poem to illustrate this, “The Arrival of the Sleepers”:
The sleepers came like curtains in the blown in the wind.
The sleepers came here
The came and blew softly into the firelight
And they were sleeping
And they were sleeping where they stood
And more sleepers came
And they lay their bodies down
And they lay their long bodies over each other
And they did not stir
And they did not stir
The sleepers slept like stones in a bog
They slept like a bog
They were a bog of sleeping sleepers
And if you had been here
If you had walked over them
You would have sunk down into them
Until just your head and arms could be seen
And you would have waved and struggled
You would have struggled
Like I struggled
Until at last you slept beside me
© 2018 Brendan Constantine
If, for no other reason, you wish to grow, as a person, through poetry, then Bouncy Bounce is the perfect choice to initiate that process. And, as with all of Constantine’s work, this chapbook deserves a permanent place on your bookshelf.
Bouncy Bounce, © 2018 Blue Horse Press, Brendan Constantine, ISBN-10: 069282096, ISBN-13: 978-0692820964, 33 pages, $10 (US).