One Night at a Time
a review by B. Lynn Zika
The cover of David Earl Williams’ chapbook started me grinning. Everybody Lives Here One Night at a Time. Hillbilly Dada Poetry?! Wow. Himmerschmezitz. If you trace language poetry and performance poetry back and back, you’ll discover they’re foreshadowed by Dada, an early 20th century art and literary movement. “Dada wished to replace the logical nonsense of the men of today with an illogical nonsense,” wrote Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia, whose artist husband, Francis Picabia, once tacked a stuffed monkey to a board and called it a portrait of Cézanne. David Earl Williams leads language and contemporary materialism onto a raft, stands them on their heads, and paddles away. I’m a willing passenger. Come along. Let’s see what he’s up to.
COMMODIFY YOUR POOPDADA WANDERNESS: It seems commercialism—capitalism—infringes on this Kentucky poet’s sensibility. No argument here. And doesn’t Williams have a quirky way of telling it.
In Madison Avenues Hungry Holy and Thousand Secret Names
Which thunder in our ears continuously… like the ABYSS… And if
we are prosperous enough promise they will love us BACK—
Into existence —just one more time…
STAR WARS LIGHT BULBS AISLE THIRTY-THREE: “…Mao Tse Tung reincarnated as a ‘Hello Kitty’ figurine.” Williams unmoors me with false teeth. China brings me back to the dock. They are, after all, our most revered supplier of STUFF. Where shall we go from here?
BALL PLAY?: As I am carried farther down this multifarious river, I begin to be struck by the poet’s familiarity with so many bits and pieces from my own cache of history, poetry, and old folk songs, grounding me and connecting me to the feather fan which Williams waves to trouble
me and then soothe my poetic brow.
IN NEWS FROM NEOLOGISMVILLE: Another delight. The invention of words. Hoolawing. Flim-flammerjammies. (Don’t you wish you owned a pair?) Jabberwock, scoot over. Isn’t language spiffy? This is an enjoyable travelogue.
TOMORROW WAS YESTERDAY, WASN’T IT?: What can I say but < grin >? Let’s skip ahead to…
MRS. WHO WAS ONCE A MR. SAYS, NOW LET US PLAY WITH WORDS LIKE WE HOPE TO ONE DAY PLAY WITH RECOMBINANT R.N.A. AND D.N.A.: Obviously we are not being guided through the traditional in this journey. If your bent is usual tourist fare, try the mouse. I’ll take, “Answers are a crib where you can rock the guilty alongside the innocent,” and “A picture is an egg with a shell made of light.”
I’ll leave you to travel the rest of this journey on your own. What’s your destination? It is a dismantling of the familiar and a construct of a more whimsical view of this world, and it is quite an interesting trip. A note to the poet on the closing poem, THE POET SPEAKS: Yes, Mr. Williams, you have spoken; I’ve heard. I thank you. As always (for me) that is a thank you for the opportunity to know a poet a bit and hence to know more of us all.