November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Beautiful Rush/Book Review

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Cassandra’s Song: Beautiful Rush
by Marc Vincenz
Poetry, 88 pp.
Unlikely Books 2014
ISBN 978-0-9708750-2-0
Winner of the 2013 Unlikely Mississippi Award

by Larissa Shmailo

One day in Hong Kong not so very long ago, a Swiss businessman named Marc Vincenz was hit upside the head by Calliope, Erato, and Polyhymnia all at once. At the muses’ insistence, Vincenz left behind 2,000 employees and the Orient, and surrendered to the life of a poet. Today, as becomes a servant of the muse, he is dutifully prolific, with seven books, and several chaps. A prominent translator of German poets and editor of Madhat and FULCRUM, Vincenz is also the force behind a new nonprofit serving small presses, Evolution Arts.

As might be expected, Vincenz’s poetry is cosmopolitan, wise, and colorful, brimming with the life of the many countries and people he has known. With Beautiful Rush, however, there is an ethereal and transcendent quality to his verse, a subtler and softer beauty to the language. The muses are gentler here, and the poet, although he sings of death and chaos, seems lightly touched by their wings.

This ethereal, otherworldly quality appear even in poems that speak of tuberculosis, gin bottles, guns, or war, and the many miseries, psychic and physical, to which we humans are heir. From the section, “How to Die of Beauty”:

when the sea

shakes the walls

and an infinity

of ghostly shoes lines blue-eyed

towns

where I am not yet dead

where

I am not quite

born.

— “Simenon’s Speck of Gladness”

There is the feeling that Vincenz is writing the final haiku of a samurai before seppuku who suddenly sees the beauty of the overcast sky. There immediacy to the verse in Beautiful Rush, supported structurally by Vincenz’s choice of short lines and spare stanzas. The white space on the page gives room and air to the poems, so that even its imprisoned denizens can breathe.

True to the poetic traditions of East and West alike, Vincenz’s codas are pregnant with meaning, posing to the reader the accursed questions of human life. From “She, at Heart, a Blue Whale”:

Is this the world that I’ve come to know
on the back of my hand?

The heroine of Beautiful Rush is the doomed Cassandra, who is the voice of several poems in this collection, and who, like the poet, has seen it all. From “Cassandra’s Designated Light”:

Isn’t there potential for chaos
in everything we see or touch?
. . .

Who is the patriarch?
and who the master?
the I in her?
And who the sky
that hangs above,
blue and in its foul temper?

and from “Cassandra Knows How to Die of Beauty”:

The name, love,
is crossed out.

O to write
letter after letter

belaboring
a fruitless cause.

A letter, of course,
seems like immortality.

The beauty of Beautiful Rush is not innocent beauty, callow and untried. It is a beauty that has been scarred, and yet rises to sing. It is, as the poet says, beauty to die for.

 

About the author:

Larissa Shmailo’s newest collection of poetry is #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books). Larissa is the editor of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses.