Wednesday, December 31, 2014

off the page poetry: featured poet: David E. Cowen

On Wednesday, January 14 at 7pm, Friendswood Public Library off the page poetry series presents a reading with David E. Cowen, president of Gulf Coast Poets; Sybil Pittman Estess, 2009 & 2015 Texas Poet Laureate nominee; and UHCL professor Dr. John Gorman. Featured readings will conclude with an open mic session. Dr. John Gorman will receive the first annual Friendswood Public Library Award for Outstanding Cultural Programming at the conclusion of this poetry event.

Excerpt from the FOREWORD of David E. Cowen’s The Madness of Empty Rooms (Weasel Press 2014)

Danel Olson, Professor of English, Lone Star College

If you step quietly for long enough into the coolness of a certain Texas graveyard at night by the sea, you may hear meditations and narratives just such as these. You pass by particular half-opened sarcophagi, then around an unmarked grave of a Civil War veteran, and then over a sheaf of salt-grass growing at the furthest edge where the mower finally gave up.
But you may never find that cemetery, so here is the book.

Incidents of families at war, of dreams slowly achieved and fortunes quickly squandered, of decadence and vendettas and eternal returns, with a few cases of tombstones repurposed, are all shared by this deliberative voice of Texas. 

Growing up close to the sun-blanched, salt-encrusted Gulf of Mexico in Brownsville, and relocating further north to Galveston to practice law, David Cowen has internalized the central narrative of that hurricane shore: nature is always indifferent, and life is as merciless as death. If his characters should face the rubble with courage to begin again, another storm only swells in the Gulf to take them all down.

If the keenest instinct of the Gothic impulse is to record decay, that is what these poems do--with uncommon directness.  Abandonment, fragmentation, ruin, trammelled innocence, and someone's unsentimentalized demise are always in the middle or at least on the edges of his verse. 

Being a lawyer, and the son of a lawyer, this poet defers to facts over lore, and remembers them well, recounting and fusing them into poetic cases melancholy, strong or shocking, yet never in doubt. The effects of evil linger long after a crime is done. In David Cowen's poetry, they linger twice as long…

…I certainly am grateful for these poems, their vitality, their atmosphere, and all their haunting voices. The secrets of an island are in this poet, and when I read him aloud again, I vow that even the ghosts of this coast stop to listen.

~Danel Olson

From the book The Madness of Empty Spaces by David E. Cown:

The Traveling Salesman Finishes His Run

anomalies are so cliché --

the soft hum of the Class III Alcubierre
spitting us
from the lips of the traversable horizon
always has its side effects

I become a primordial slug
inching on an evolutionary plane
of parallel strings
my antennae probing lost patches
of fractured reality

at least the colors are amusing

but they fade
as I find myself
slithering unexotically
over a half eaten package of peanuts
and an empty can of soda

just hazards of the trade
the movie was boring anyway

I am content
I met my quota

we decelerate through the other door

my arms reform
my legs reshape
I become who I am
I finish the last of the honey roasteds

the garbled recording reminds us
to return our tray tables to an upright position--
presuming up and down in zero G--
thanking us for taking the “company plane”
I reach down to secure
my suitcase of samples under the seat in front
as instructed

looking out
at the cerulean pearl
imbedded with swirls of red storms
circling a familiar bloated star

I sigh
I will again be sleeping in my own bed
my only apprehension
being whether I remembered
to let the cat out
before I left

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