John Olson and Jeanne Heuving
Rebecca Brown


I’m so sick of irony.  I’m sick of nihilism and meaninglessness and everything that’s that hipper than thou or smarter than thou or oh boo hoo my life has no meaning (whose fault is that?) and oh boo hoo language can’t be trusted any more.  It can, dammit. Language can be trusted and it can work.  It can say things that can make you think and feel, it can say the ways you think or feel and things that make you think that maybe you just might want to live another day.  Things like Beauty or Love or even, uh -- uh-- Redemption. 

In other words: thank God for John Olson and Jeanne Heuving.  Thank God for their books Backscatter and Transducer and thank god that Black Widow Press and Chax Press are doing the work of believing in and making words available to those of us who need them.  

Here’s what I’m talking about: Jeanne Heuving’s book has a piece in it called “Furrow” that begins  

How all is a fertile field

Granted, the line goes on to say ever threatening.  Of course things are threatened and threaten-ing - we do not live in some zombie-mono “paradise,” forgodsake.  The point is, there is a fertile thing.  There is a field.  There is an ever opened ...possibility.  There is Earth.    

Jeanne Heuving has read a lot of HD and there’s an HD kind of presence hovering - fertile-ly - over much of this book.  A spirit of condensing, of searing, of purifying, of seeing the bone- white, Attic cleanness of things, of saying, then, what they were and are and evermore shall be. 

There’s also this amazing mix, like HD, the last Greek, was invited to a party with the Christians - and that she showed up to it!  And that they - HD and people with other metaphysics - all got along because they GOT IT.  They understood that they were ABOUT the same thing(s) - about multiplicity and season-al-ness and the forever returning-ness (a flowering from the depths according to “Well of Flowers”) of redemption.  About Orpheus and Jesus doing the same resurrection kind of thing. (What does not go away, also from “Furrow”).  

Transducer ends with a long poem/sequence/section called “Limning”.  To “limn” now means to paint or draw or to portray in words.  But the origin of the word is Latin: illuminare: to make light.  Not “make light of” (not iron-ize.  I hate that.)  But to  make a thing into light, to see the light within a thing, to en-lighten.  The way spring (the season) does (See Orpheus above) with flowers et al.  Also, like and of the light that surrounds saints (halos, mandorlas, the radiance one sees in the Beloved).   The poem/sequence/section “Liming” begins with “The possibility.../ That I should find you.”  The “you” found in this book both is the body and the beyond - (the transcendence of, the transcending of) - the body of the beloved. 

By the second poem in this sequence, the poet is quoting sacred text he came/to them, walking on the sea.   Mary... anointed his feet/ and wiped his feet with her hair.   She knows whose in her house.  She’s doing what she can to fill the house... with fragrance.   

This book ends: you are breathing still.  Everybody thought that everybody died except they didn’t.  Jeanne Heuving’s first book was called Incapacity and it was partly about (I heard her talk about it this way last year) a state of Not Being Able.  (It was also about a lot of other things.)  Whereas Transducer is about things that are able, things that can change and transform and are also means of changing or transforming or trans(anything)ing.  That is to say, things that continue and live.  Not things self-biting (irony); not things that are not anything (nihilist).  These are poems about belief.  The body of the beloved that can be held, that is the means of holding onto and making good your life.

But just because you know this once does not mean you don’t forget it.  You need to be reminded.   You need to be reminded lots.  You might need to remember every day. 

But thank god, “[E]very day is a reprieve.”   That’s 

what John Olson says in “Some Wanton Reflections” from Backscatter his new and selected poems.  I believe him.  I need to.  

We need reprieves.  (Some of us need them every day.)   We need them like the earth needs seasons. (see flowers, Orpheus, Jesus, etc. in Heuving, above).  Poetry can both reprieve us and give us something to do in our reprieve.  How might we move nearer to the divine?  That is the real question, Olson continues this same poem.  Wow.  The poet isn’t fretting about if there is a divine or not, the poet assumes it.  The real question is then (is only?) how to get closer to it. Think about that: the assurance the divine is there, the assurance that it is get-near-able-to.  As confident as taken for granted as a season.  (see Heuving, flowers, etc. above).  Which is not to diminish the poem: The poem is not a tool, says the first piece in Backscatter, which calls itself not a poem but an essay though they are kind of the same in word-world made by the alchemical Magus Olson.  The words of poets cannot be used for anything (“City of Words.”), the poet Olson cries out in the urban-ness like an Old Testament Prophet.    Poetry IS enough by its existence, and by the existence of Russell Edson, Shakespeare, Basho, the Beats, Stein, Rimbaud, all of whom drive through this book.  

I also kept thinking, reading these Olson’s, of Whitman.   Sort of like, if Heuving is in that Dickinson/HD lineage, Olson is in the Whitman/Blake line.  Ecstatic, loud, embracing bigness, multiplicities, cities full of fulness.  Let’s make a great big noise.  Everything is boiling, sparkling, splattering and bright.  (A Big Noise).  If Heuving is the sound of a tuning fork, a ringing with ripples rippling out, Olson is Brian Eno doing the “Hallelujah Chorus” with everyone at once starting on whatever note they hear in their head, but everyone knows the song and sings it loud and the notes and keys are different but over the course of it they find they same note and then you recognize it.  The volumes in these books  are different. If you weighed the letters in these books, Backscatter would tip the scales; Transducer would be thrown up in the air before it knew what had happened and the world would fly off, beauty, everywhere. 

But both of them are about believing, about living not dying, about

remembering, not feeling like you are the only one, but like there were others there before us who can help us.

This (these) are just to say (again):  Fuck irony.  Fuck nihilism.   Read poems instead.  Read these. 

It’s Time to be sincere.  And bring words together in a sweetness full of flowers and raptures... (Inclined)