“Karma,” writes Tom Clark, “simply means that you don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Existence––a.k.a. “getting through to tomorrow”––simply means “that your left hand wouldn’t want to know anyway.” Cracked consciousness vs. the crazy subconscious, fractured karma vs. our chipped, sad, shopworn existence––these are the dynamics underlying this rich and varied collection of lyrics.
Here are light-hearted nature poems chronicling a Pacific Coast cold snap, affectionate satires of the California brand of Zen Buddhism, and, in a pronounced shift of tone, a series of moving elegies for Robert Duncan, Delmore Schwartz, Hart Crane, and Jean Genet. Best of all, here is one of Clark’s matchless biographies in verse: a short double life of English music-hall great George Formby (1904–1961), master of the ukulele and the double-entendre, and the onetime professional clog-dancer Beryl Ingham, Formby’s wife, agent, manager, muse, and tight-fisted Colonel Parker.
“There is beauty and humor here,” said Library Journal, “and an exquisite eye for detail.”
Clark gives us what a poet is supposed to give us: one man’s independently arrived-at spiritual and material vision of the world. He is one of our original modern troubadours, and he deserves to be heard.
––Tony Hoagland, Poetry Flash