Jack Christian comes to CSU
In his poem ‘Roseland,’ Jack Christian tells us that poets are ‘alchemists in an original sense,’ and if I might make a humble request, I’d like for us to take his word on that. And why shouldn’t we? The poems throughout his book Family System, are truthful. One poem tell us that ‘the knowledge that our field had no end made us wild to suppose one;’ another poem explains ‘the myth of retrospective cohesion;’ in one titled ‘Organization is also a Making,’ we are told at the outset that ‘All image is impossible,’ and later ‘the deep world is a lie;’ and even where they do lie to us, those lies become truths. ‘This is,’ yet another poem tells us, ‘a concatenation of the truth.’ Lies blend intro truths until we are no longer able to distinguish one from another.
Alchemy, when it is invoked anymore, is seen as something of an outmoded form of chemistry. It’s most commonly known for its quaint pursuits to turn base substances such as lead into noble ones like gold or silver or to find elixirs that would grant one immortality; because of these pursuits, it’s hard not to see chemistry as a better, as a purer science. But there’s one more aspect of alchemy I haven’t yet discussed that will, I hope, redeem alchemy, and put it back on even terms with chemistry. Alchemy’s most basic desire is a spiritual perfection, a perfection of the soul. In this light, alchemy’s quaint pursuits become metaphors for self-betterment and understanding. Alchemy becomes an investigation more concerned with an understanding of the human interior than with an external material transformation.
At this point, I’d like to return to Jack’s poem, ‘Roseland.’ The poem ends with the line, ‘I’m Daniel Schorr, we say.’ In 1971 Daniel Schorr, then a reporter for CBS news, unwittingly read on television a list that President Nixon had devised as part of a paranoid scheme he had dubbed ‘The Political Enemies Project.’ Daniel Schorr read it unwittingly, because he was number seventeen on that list. So, when we unwittingly read ‘I’m Daniel Schorr, we say,’ at the end of Jack’s poem, suddenly our voices transform into that marble-mouthed baritone of Daniel Schorr’s. And suddenly we share the horror that Daniel Schorr felt when he found
Jack Christian, author of Family System, won the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2012. He will read with Nelligan Prize Winner, Matthew Shaer on Thursday, February 21st at 7:30 at the University Center for the Arts.