Creech, The Sleep of Reason
for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2014
pp, ISBN: 978-1904130-53-6, £8.99 (paperback only),
Publication, 1 March 2013
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note about The Sleep of Reason
Morri Creech's third collection
of poems, The Sleep of Reason, is a lyrical examination
of liminal states of consciousness and experience the
shadowy terrain between sleep and waking, dream and nightmare,
life and death, history and the present moment. Including
both a surprising take on Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale"
and a dark meditation on the perils of the sublime, The
Sleep of Reason explores the anxieties, horrors, and dreams
that flash just beneath the surface of the waking mind, combining
formal elegance and an acknowledgment of literary tradition
with a fresh, contemporary voice.
A note on Morri Creech
Creech was born in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, USA, in 1970
and was educated at Winthrop University and McNeese State University.
He is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Paper
Cathedrals (Kent State University Press, 2001) and Field
Knowledge (Waywiser, 2006), which received the Anthony Hecht
Poetry prize and was nominated for both the Los Angeles Times
Book Award and the Poets Prize. A recipient of NEA and
Ruth Lilly Fellowships, as well as grants from the North Carolina
and Louisana Arts councils, he is the Writer in Residence at
Queens University of Charlotte, where he teaches courses in
both the undergraduate creative writing program and in the low
residency M.F.A. program. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina
with his wife and two children.
Morri Creech's own website
for The Sleep of Reason
Its a rare thing in this day and age to encounter
a poet unafraid to think out loud and, moreover, one who possesses
the lyric gifts and intellectual savvy to translate those thoughts
into the material realities of everyday life. Formal and mimetic,
elegiac and acerbic, equally at home with a painting from the
Dutch Golden Age and the circus sprawl of popular culture, The
Sleep of Reason is as accomplished and intrepid a book of
poems as one is likely to find. Sherod Santos
in these poems are "ordinary," a man, say, at the
start of a day, looking in a mirror, looking out a window, carrying
out the trash, having a job, having a family, having a self,
and wondering how it is doing, wondering what his future and
his past and this day are; and writing about these things in
beautiful expressive lines of verse, faithful measured lines
with their varied subtle pressures and subtle cadences, responsive
to the variety of pressures and cadences of the thoughts and
feelings of the life being lived." David Ferry
|Poetry readers who have encountered Creech's Field Knowledge
and Paper Cathedrals will be intrigued by this third book. W
of The Sleep of Reason
14 April 2014
ANNOUNCEMENT of the 98th ANNUAL PULITZER PRIZES in JOURNALISM,
LETTERS, DRAMA and MUSIC
"[The Sleep of Reason is] a book of masterly poems
that capture the inner experience of a man in mid-life who is
troubled by mortality and the passage of time, traditional themes
that are made to feel new."
"The title of Morri Creechs third volume comes from
a terrific Goya etching featured on the books cover, which
shows a man asleep, fierce owl-like creatures hovering above
his head. Goyas full title tells us that the sleep of
reason produces monsters, and Creech brilliantly probes the
fears, horrors, and anxieties that lurk just below the surface
of our waking everyday minds. In an early poem 'The Dream of
Reason,' the speaker doubts Descartes 'ergo sum / of consciousness,'
affirming that all is flux: 'Dust spins its bedlam universe
/ in my mind for days. Im tired of certainties.' There
is nonetheless an elegant and reasonable structuring throughout,
and Creechs willingness to live in uncertainty with regard
to ultimate questions automatically evokes John Keatss
notion of negative capability ...Creechs poems lyrically
meditate on photography, painting, a Nazi cigarette lighter,
midlife, banks, a night-blooming cereus, birches, and Hamlet.
The implied monsters of the books title lead us memorably
to 'Landfill,' a poem that contemplates the ecological consequences
of materialism, fashion mandates, rabid consumerism, and a throwaway
society. Another monster is war, and 'Countryman of Bones'is
a moving elegy in which Creech speaks to a friend killed in
action far from home. He speaks to him at a river where they
used to go swimming as teens and within view of the spire of
the Baptist church they attended for fifteen years. In 'Lullaby,'the
speaker describes the greedy, warlike world his sleeping daughter
will inherit, a place where 'The crooks who caused the market
crash / resign with pocketfuls of cash.' These are masterful,
rewarding poems. Peter Makuck
read the whole of this review, please click on the link below:
"Formal poetry naturally walks in the shadow of earlier
writers, and Morri Creech rather relishes the summoning power
of traditional verse, happy to allude freely yet for the most
part keeping the shades where he wants them. 'Lullaby: Under
the Sun', for instance, conjures Auden's 'A Summer Night' but
also recalls 'a green shade', 'an idiot's tale', a world 'made
on such stuff'. 'Late Reading' is a rumination on Hamlet; two
longer pieces gloss nKeats's 'Ode to a Nightingale', the first
of them wittily confronting the poet's own front yard songster:
Beat it, bird. We've heard enough about
the charms of elsewhere.
While your poured forth your soul
a poet hidden in the light of thought,
spirit, we grew tired of the whole
business; each of us has drunk
the cup of sorrows and of boredom, too.
I've wandered out here onto the front lawn
picked up a chunk
gravel, and I'm aiming it at you.
nice tune, but we'd rather you were gone.
author admits 'I've read too many books' but in fact the literariness
doesn't inflate the poems and as that chunk of gravel
suggests they always come back to earth ... I was reminded
most of Larkin, whose profound influence on American poets from
Lowell to Nemerov has yet to be fully acknowledged ... [T]his
poet of the Carolinas never los[es] touch with ordinary concerns,
but mak[es] us think about why artists do what they do."
he declares in 'The Dream ofReason,'one of the book's opening
poems, 'Dust spins its bedlam universe/ in my mind for days.
I'm tired of certainties,' there's a wondrous sense of logic
to the entire enterprise. Yes, Creech tosses out challenges
('What should we say of them, these lush, moon-scented/ blossoms
that memorialize the light?'), turning over hard questions as
he registers frustration with the human detritus of banks, businesses,
and weapons of war, but he finally comes back to the surety
and beauty of the universe ('Better to dwell on other things
/ the moon-slicked river, osprey wings / rowing across
the empty air'). What's especially impressive is Creech's sense
of pacing and musicality, lost in some contemporary poetry;
lines like 'At daybreak light falls / through a thin gap in
the curtains / like meaning drawn tight on a shivering thread'
reveal a lovely mastery of craft. VERDICT: A poet to watch and,
for poetry devotees, certainly to read.
The Sleep of Reason
seems these days youve had enough of order.
For months you harried the blackbirds from the yard
with a pellet gun, clatter of pie tins, an absurd
straw-stuffed overcoat, and gave no quarter,
lit fireworks, once, to chase them off
the laundry poles and apple trees. And now?
The pump gun leans against the table saw
in your garage, the clean shirts billow and luff
mild suburban peace, although the change
has quite unsettled you. Its true the lawn
looks clear, the trees untroubled. But at dawn
sometimes you hear the creaking of a hinge,
swing set or a screen door, and you wake
thinking they might be there. Of course, theyre
They loiter at the margins of your thought
like a dream you had once but cant seem to shake,
now you wake so often that each time
wind sifts the limbs or flaps the empty sleeves
you want to tear them down, scatter the leaves
you spent all season raking into prim
near the road, then stand out in the cold
beneath clouds of a slowly changing weather
and watch the pale sky darken to a feather,
until the meaning wings down and takes hold.
Dream of Reason
several minutes the whole drunken room
whirls in my half sleep, and a daze of motes
flares in spindrift galaxies, staggers and floats
like Descartes dream, before the ergo sum
of consciousness calms the minds delirium,
taking note of the rooms coordinates
floor and four walls where light accumulates;
the shade of blinds a slight wind moves at random.
to make of this lingering trick of sense?
Descartes got up and, shaken from his ease
by a dance of sparks, a stranger, and a verse,
constructed from his thought firm evidence.
spins its bedlam universe
in my mind for days.
tired of certainties.