In the contemporary American poetry scene Will Alexander stands alone as a unique voice, regularly penning what fellow poet Brian Lucas recently described to me as “oracular, vatic, cosmically penetrating poetry.” Perhaps the most obvious categorisation is to place him in the imported Surrealist tradition that has been filtered to the American public through such literary dynamos as Aimé Cesaire, Octavio Paz, Philip Lamantia, Bob Kaufman, all of whom are often cited by Alexander as being influential – along with originators like André Breton and Antonin Artaud. But to do so is to do him a slight disservice as his poems often convey interweaving cultural, historical, scientific, political and spiritual layers beyond the spellbinding surface of words.
Kaleidoscopic Omniscience is a new anthology of Alexander’s works that advance the lingual contortionist and poetic sage at his effulgent best, offering new editions of earlier published works – Asia & Haiti and The Stratospheric Canticles – as well as the previously unpublished and long-awaited collection, Impulse & Nothingness. The pure scope and range of these three works presented in concert is an amazing poetic feat in and of itself, one where Alexander’s prismatic and oracular voice cascades around various bi-geographic confrontations, painterly morphologies, and the roiling cosmology of the void. Eliot Weinburger marvels at the poetic terrain traversed in these works: “No subject seems alien to him: Who else would write a poem on the death of Enver Hoxha? Who else would attempt to inhabit the brain of an animal in ecological catastrophe? Who else could spin a book-length poem from the verb ‘to paint’? – a poem that not only ranges through the history of world art, but which is an extended meditation on the way seeing is transformed by the chemical compounds of paint into vision.” (from Sulfur). The simple answer to Weinburger’s question is – currently, no one! The poet also gives us a glimpse into the machinations of his roving mind in an eye-opening introduction to the book: “The three books of poems form an organic constellation. Their range extends from the flora and fauna of Tibet, to new world politics and culture in Haiti, doubling back to Italy and ideology under Hoxha in Albania, combined with my interest in the mystery of the cosmos. Intertwined with these locales there is engagement with areas such as ecology, and world painting, as well as with the psychosis of dictatorship…”
Indeed, the poet’s introduction is a veritable treasure as Alexander expounds upon the very nature by which he channels the murmurs:
“As poet I’ve been blessed with the instinct for hearing. I’ve always been filled with herds of sound from the moment I gained my first aural realization. Summed in five words: the electrical instinct for language. This instinct has provided me with self-possessive industry, allowing me to continuously rise into an elevated aural field. And by industry I mean continuous tilling of the mind, so that over time verbal crops are unleashed. To paraphrase Rimbaud, I is another. Respiration on this plane takes place by means of alchemic treason. Assumption by means of the old mechanical methods need be mentally abducted and slain. Without such action mechanical method becomes a carking fuel which entangles the alchemic. Thus, the ear becomes foiled through effort at quotidian confirmation. The latter leading to safety through domestic adjustment. Aversion then condenses as barrier against uncertainty. Thus, failure ensues as regards to inscribing an alien encryption with one’s thinking…”
As his poetry and poetic fiction garners world appeal, literary peers have commented at the numinous state Alexander reaches in and through his writing. Jonathan Skinner remarks thus – “… multiplicity, simultaneity, collapsing of interior/exterior boundaries, restless migratory intelligence … An uncancelled wavering and a “brimstone fire” of focus, unflinchingly alert to the vast sentient suffering, also to the astonishing resourcefulness and the yet unimagined forms of life on this planet at the edge of the Milky Way.” Mark Scroggins in American Book Review states – “[Alexander is] acutely conscious of the issue of poetic voice, and is unwilling to let poetry’s potential for ventriloquizing or exploring the voices of others be subsumed in an impersonal écriture or ultimately homogenous montage. He seems as well interested in the spiritual dimension of poetry, especially in the degrees to which poetry can give us access to spiritual or emotional states beyond those we normally experience.” Ever enigmatic, the author soliloquises on what Dylan Thomas likened to dreaming one’s genesis: “Simply put, the interior state. This being the zone where aural volcanoes begin blooming. For instance, a spark which ignites as the flooded luminosity of an ampersand, rushing into the mind with unbidden focus. This being the power which appears from untamed regions, called by some, the raw, the unintentional, by others, the bleak, the unadorned, the unsettled. Myself, I call it unstudied purity.”
Skylight Press is honoured to publish the work of this great poet. Kaleidoscopic Omniscience follows on from the visionary poetic novel, Diary As Sin, published in 2011, and is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, or direct from the Skylight Press website.