Impure. Poems by Tony Barnstone. Published
by University Press of Florida in 1999. From the Contemporary
See this review of the book.
Read "Commandments," from Impure
A poet of profound amusement and deep and truculent honesty. In Tony Barnstone's first collection of poetry, anxiety and concern with the proliferation of toxic waste, human cruelty, and just plain ugliness are precariously balanced by the power of personal love. He is fascinated by the interconnectedness of everything. "Hair of the Field" shows a young man "mowing" his lawn with a pair of garden shears, thinking of Walt Whitman's words on grass, of Whitman as grass, then of following the roots of grass-and words-back through the centuries and continents and somehow emerging from this etymological adventure back in his own yard "with [his] hands stained green."
No matter where Barnstone finds himself (a video arcade, a mall eatery, a laundromat), he inspects the people, the flora, the fauna, and the mechanistic devices and bends them into poetry. Blessed with the gift of simultaneous awareness of other creatures, other times, other gods, and the myriad possibilities emanating from each moment, his poems become tender, witty, and scary. In "Ars Poetica," for example, a bird going for its prey appears to be "a black line marked across the sky," and becomes poetry itself: "and I've always thought this is the way / the line should leave the page / with extended claws, a sweet and sudden rage."
These are sexy poems, poems with attitude. Writing from the world we actually live in, he searches for scraps of wisdom and spirit, creating a book that is both political and deeply personal.
"I admire Tony Barnstone's Impure because of the collection's
unrelenting believability and lyrical certainty. Plain-spoken and magical,
this poet knows how to make imagination and the real world collide softly.
There is a clarity in Impure that reaches beyond the formlessness
of modern life. Borders are crossed in the psyche and the flesh, and this
collection seems like an elongated song that embraces the most elusive
moments buried in language and nuance through the pure naming of things -
a mantra of what is and what is dreamt - that takes into the sacred
territory what no ordinary compass can plot or unplot."
"Tony Barnstone has no walls. He is alive moment to moment at the naked
center. In his shrewd double vision, the animal self and the outside self
mingle in ecstasy and grief of flesh. He is so surprising and fearless
and cuts right to it, and yet so delicate and lyrical. The pure Impure!
"Tony Barnstone unabashedly celebrates bodily joy and pokes the backside
of everything prudish and puritanical. He is a poet of profound
amusement, a spirit accountant, an heir to Whitman, Basho and Neruda. He
works in many styles, but his hallmark is a deep and truculent honesty, a
desire to bring secrets into the open. Impure is a first book to
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