Philip Jenks
On the Cave You Live In
Chicago: Flood Editions, 2002

"in body hovel." The blurb says Stein, but this debut collection puts me more in mind of a Mina Loy conception via Mr. W.B. Yeats, with a little of uncle Lou Reed thrown in, had that fellow been born to be more tolerant of trees. But enough of the E! True Hollywood Story: with On the Cave You Live In, Philip Jenks proves himself a poet both wild and measured, comfortable in a very particular sort of latter-day aesopic language. "So we wade up/into it from the inside." (In this diffidence perhaps he is like Stein.) Though there are lapses in the poet's control of his measure, in the focus of his intensity, this book is strikingly original, full, and sure, at times achieving an exquisite linear compression (unlike Stein, like Loy, Sappho, folk songs). Jenks' method is one in which body, sentence, and line are handsomely tooled out for revelation. "guts pick themselves/up and wave happily to one another/behind infinite faces." Like Esther Belin, Sarah Anne Cox, Pattie McCarthy, and several other younger poets of note, Jenks examines faith and its wardrobes from a perspective weirdly and beautifully embodied and contextualized, historically and politically responsive and vigilant, compellingly idiosyncratic. From "The New Jesus":

and Christ has so many tongues
it's like some homeric demon
speaking 32 trillion dialects
all the while gathering steam
across centuries then sudden
silent huddle in channels
of dying Elms.

This book gracefully and heartbreakingly asserts the disjunct sense of inheritance that is the birthright and challenge of the more poverty-stricken and culturally convoluted frontiers of the American mindscape, and is home to all truehearts amongst American artists and intellectuals. "America glared haughtily at/local shoe burnings that Christmas." "you also see yourself in drag/in the corner of the morning"

--- Elizabeth Treadwell