T. H. Cornell, Glance Over at These Creatures (Resources for Human Development, 1977)
[originally posted 10Apr2000]
Thomas H. “Tad” Cornell is a founding member of avant-weird Philadelphia poetry/music/you-name-it troupe Bloody Someday, and was making waves in the poetry scene for a number of years before that, but this collection, Cornell’s first, goes back to before his journey to southeast Asia and the transforming of his writing into a more spiritual phase.
It’s still possible, though, to see where Cornell came from in this collection, and while he wasn’t traversing the more sweeping ground he did later on, this collection is full of small pleasures that were precursors to the heavier stuff, as in “Notes of a Civil Servant II”:
As a detective your promotion is way overdue.
You’ve begun a spider farm
in your ribcage, and years of flagrant paunching
have produced a settling
into the legs.
Each leg is a branch of government
that hired the head, eyes, ears, the voice, as if you had planted yourself
and grew thick at the bottom
and leafy up top.
Your son builds model boats,
old three riggers that he puts around the house,
big ones, and in the basement
is the skeleton hull of a real boat.
As a reader of cobwebs you learn to recognize a spider farm.
As a reader of moons
you think how the tide will be coming in, how the spiders go crazy
in the ribcage, each one
a little bureaucrat with eight legs.
This one may well only be for Cornell completists, and is pretty hard to get, unless you’re near Philly and can get one from the man himself (assuming he still has any; I bought this one from him seven years ago). However, were more people to have read Cornell, I think there would be a whole lot more completists out there. Honey From the Rock and Hong Kong Elegies [update 15Aug2013: this is still the case, though it is OOP and quite expensive] is still listed at Amazon, and Bookfinder lists four titles, two of which I am unfamiliar with (but that will change immediately): Honey from the Rock, The Unspeakable Mating, Holyland U.S.A., and Sweep. The former two are highly recommended (and I’ll get around to rereading and reviewing them in the next couple of weeks, assuming I can find them in the book-room avalanche). Until then, just take my word for it: you want to know T. H. Cornell’s work. The man is just plain good. *** ½