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Tilting Point by Peter Dale Scott
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Tilting Point

by Peter Dale Scott

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Tilting Point, Peter Dale Scott’s recent book of poems, proves that the old hand has not lost its cunning. The fine book could not be more timely, for it is designed like all poetry that matters to wake you up — wake you to “all there is” and the fragile, traduced and threatened beauty of this world. The book is rooted in the heady Berkeley of the 1960s reconsidered from the distance of half a century as the transplanted Canadian poet and Berkeley professor (emeritus) reflects on the perversion of the dream. If you know Scott’s work then you will be prepared for the lyrics celebrating desire for women, his Buddhism, and his longer, anguished, footnoted, jeremiads about the parlous state of our bloated, militarized, drug-addicted Empire. Throughout he is in constant conversation with his poetic peers, some dead now, like Czeslaw Milosz and Denise Levertov; some very much alive, like his old friend Leonard Cohen. This is a terrific book — terrific in the literal sense. It’s hard not to feel dread at the bad news Scott is obliged to recall; but he finds some comfort in the “spreading / leafwork of the Internet” as a tool with which to seek truth. “Truth” (TP 77) is the last word of Tilting Point. Scott does not blush to use it as our younger poets do; he knows that the power of poetry lies there — everything else is just smoke and fireworks.

“Tilting at the mills of state / with a lance of paper” (TP 18) is the way Scott sums up his life’s work as poet and historian. The lines remind us that the title has a double meaning: Scott’s book is about a tilting point in US and world history — the “Sixties” — but it is itself the point of the lance in the tiltyard, as this Quixote-like poet and historian contests the rampant national security state.
....
In closing, let’s return to Scott’s judgment on himself as “frozen between the sensibilities of Hamlet / and the challenge of the Situationists / who forced the Paris uprising in ’68” (TP 71). This self-deprecation is a neurotic tic of Scott’s, which I see as symptomatic of his anglophile upbringing; he worries that the poet is not properly a man of action. I remind him of Emerson’s remark to the effect that “the deeds of Homer were to Homer what the deeds of Agamemnon were to Agamemnon”; that is, the poetic word is a deed of power — as Scott knows full well, that’s what Joan Baez meant when she tried to account for Leonard Cohen’s ability to stop the riot at the Isle of Wight — “it was his poetry // magical” (TP 69). Fact is, without Homer Agamemnon’s deeds would be so much dust — like Alexander’s dust good to stop a bunghole — as Hamlet says while conversing with Yorick’s skull. Whatever his modest self-doubts, Scott’s poetic magic is as efficacious as Leonard Cohen’s. He did not stay frozen, rather his poetry made him warm. Through it he became the man who thaws; surely his life’s work has the intention of thawing out the Cold War and its terrible effects. Surely, Scott’s deep poetical analysis thaws out the past and lets the corpses rise to the surface. Since he cannot wake them, he must try to waken us as he speaks to us their names.
 
Former Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott received the Lannan Poetry Award in 2002, following publication of the final book of Seculum. This trilogy comprised Coming to Jakarta: a poem about terror (1988), Listening to the Candle: a poem on impulse (1992), and Minding the Darkness: a poem for the year 2000 (2000). Mosaic Orpheus followed in 2009. John Peck, a poet with similarly wide-ranging contemporary concerns, reviewed Orpheus astutely in "Seeing Things as They Are," published in the Notre Dame Review, where he boldly described Seculum "one of the essential long poems of the past half century." How many other essential long poems have been published since 1960? Ezra Pound's Late Cantos? Peck's review appears at: http://ndreview.nd.edu/assets/35286/p... Initially, I thought that Tilting Point placed the concerns of Scott's earlier work in the elegiac light of a summa poetica. Was Tilting Point the beginning of an extended look back in more poetry yet to come? But Scott has just posted "Greek Theater: How Mario Savio Changed My Life," a poem in 46 tercets at a new website at http://www.comingtojakarta.net/2013/0... I was mistaken to speak of the light elegiac. "Greek Theater" has all the power, equanimity, and commitment of Scott's best work in Seculum...
added by davidgn | editPrairie Fire Magazine, Jim Reid
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 098502609X, Paperback)

“Brilliant and devastating.” — Michael Ondaatje “Real poetry, visionary and complex.” — Richard Ryan, Washington Post Book World “Bold, idiosyncratic, and arresting...” — Robert Pinsky

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:30 -0400)

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