(b)its by Joel Chace
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco, 2008)
He Has a Way with Him
Joel Chace is such a good poet. Today, January 2, 2009, I had a mammogram, went food shopping, looked at discounted dressers, and came home. Through the mail slot soon came a bunch of crap, as usual, and an envelope, and in it was a tiny square book with a pleasing woven cover of mostly pastel stripes on one half and a dark green and gold pattern on the other. Inside, Joel Chace's poems. It was like extending the holiday. I stopped what I was doing to read it through, each page poetry that said hello. How does he convey what's happening so clearly? Eileen Tabios must be happy to copy the poetry by hand onto these square little pages.
The book is called (b)its. Once there was a magazine of short poems in Cleveland called bits, not sure if it still exists. In the late 60s/early 70s Victor Bockris, Andrew Wylie and Aram Saroyan started the very short poem school of poetry. That was hipper than this, this is sweeter than that. Like a little Hannukah message. One page, for instance:
that know you
and they all
have this /
glow about them
True enough, well placed, straightforwardly and moving said.
says another. Well, it's just fun. Unpretentious as he is, he's got wit and generosity and simplicity. Joel's Cleaning the Mirror: New and Selected Poems from Blazevox would be well worth getting—everything I have read of his makes me keep reading. No false notes, grandiosity, romanticism, but gentle fun and clarity. Keep reading. You can buy this book (Editor's Note: see GR's "Advertisement"), and check out Jill Jones' hay(na)ku ('standing/a painted flower/my likeness', for instance) and other delicious desserts while you're at it.
Ruth Lepson is poet-in-res at New England Conservatory of Music. Her books are Dreaming in Color, Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology (ed.), Morphology, a collaboration with artist Rusty Crump of his & her pix & her prose poems, and, forthcoming from blazeVOX Books I Went Looking for You. She has been performing with jazz musicians Noah Preminger & Eric Lane in low road, & the group has a CD forthcoming.