Holy Vortex of the Question

but wen i was a chylde / i was so olde / inn my dreems

—Jos Charles, feeld


Dear Friends,

I once dreamt that I was walking down a busy sidewalk and happened to notice someone holding a baby. As I drew near, I saw that the baby had my grandfather’s face. Awestruck, I stopped, and the stranger handed me this impossible child; gazing down at him, I was overwhelmed by a sort of awful serenity. I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced a feeling equal to it in my waking hours.

There is something fiercely familiar that comes through the poem, no matter how strange and unexpected its form, its holy face. The question of what the poem is, exactly, invites all sorts of answers that, like adhesives, help us to fix impressions in order. But the Is of the question of the poem sheds the order like seasons, its figure inclined in titanic reverence toward a still greater sphere and marvel of coherence.

“The gods in their graciousness give us an occasional first line for nothing,” Valéry writes, “but it is for us to fashion the second, which must chime with the first and not be unworthy of its supernatural elder.” Each of us has come from somewhere and is tasked with making it to “the end.” Reverence, Valéry implies, is integral to the task. The poet is thrilled—re: Old English þyrlian "to perforate, pierce," from PIE root *tere- “cross over, pass through, overcome”—with what it means to be here.

I wake in a god,” Annie Dillard writes. “I wake in the arms holding my quilt, holding me as best they can inside my quilt.” Here, the barrier between oneself and one’s essential experience (“a god”) is limbs and skin, and “someone is kissing me—already.” This is the kiss of peace, of reciprocal sentience—conscience. Elizabeth Robinson expounds on this intensity of relationship in her original introduction to David Mutschlecner’s Poetic Faith, part one:

“Poetry, like theology, comes into being through reciprocity. Revelation, then, is not a transcendence that ruptures the intimacy of thought and feeling, but an opening into what Mutschlecner calls sublime community. There, the transcendent doesn’t lift us above, but intensifies relationship, intensifies the everything of a richly interconnected meaning where meaning ‘is being’ and thus the ‘mystery of vitality is the mystery of community is the mystery of commonality is the mystery of poetry.’”

For James Baldwin, this intensification signaled a “freedom that was close to love,” and he wrote with terrible clarity of a pervasive contemporary exile from it—a characteristically American inability to perceive the kiss:

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread. It will be a great day for America, incidentally, when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it. And I am not being frivolous now, either. Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become.

Can poetry help us “begin to eat bread again”? Reed Bye answers with great depth of experience in the affirmative: “The joining of body and mind at the moment of perception gives a sense of clarity and wholeness to our sensory and mental experience, [producing] insights into the reality, or norms, of how things are. In this sense, art is something more than the creative production of an aesthetic object; it is a ‘way’ of active attention, in which our mind and senses fit together.”

We are honored to announce the publication of The Lune’s two new full-length titles, Reed Bye’s Morning Rites and David Mutschlecner’s Poetic Faith. Produced with the artful guidance of Jim Deany in Fort Collins, and published here in wintry Chicago, both limited edition paperbacks are now available for purchase.

A six-part verse-manual for waking life, Morning Rites is impelled by “simple measures in [an] American idiom” suffused with twenty-first century esse. Reed Bye charts a precise and radiant course through postmodern sentience towards unfailing respect for the human experience. Tyler Burba, Anselm Berrigan and Ella Longpre announce Bye’s characteristically “wry insights into instability’s forms of onwardness,” his “mapping [of] the bodied experiences behind the poem, behind the day.” In Morning Rites, “deep clarity is found—by a rare wonder—in pure utterance.”

Poetic Faith is David Mutschlecner’s magnum opus, a crystalline treatise on the “active mystery of what most vitally informs the world.” In Dan Beachy-Quick’s words, there is a “kindness [in] this work, these words—in their miracle, i.e. in what they let be seen—[that] already includes us, the readers yet to come.” Mutschlecner’s terse essays “bequeath us not merely with [his] acute intelligence,” writes Elizabeth Robinson, “but also with his tenderness for made thing and maker as they interact and reciprocally shape each other.” Per Mary Cisper: “It’s possible that reading Poetic Faith will change your poetry, and your life.”