Premeditations

» March 25th, 2020

Premeditations

by klipschutz
Hoot n Waddle, 120pp., $16.00

Premeditations is a poet’s ode to poets. With wry nostalgia, klipschutz (the name author Kurt Lipschutz goes by), a San Francisco poet and songwriter (who works closely with the musician Chuck Prophet), opens his paean to poetry by defending the increasingly endangered sacred space where one typically discovers words that fuel the spirit: a bookstore. “North Beach Threnody,” the volume’s opening poem, leads with this stanza:

A landmark, registered, and us inside it,
folded up in folding chairs, with
everything outside moving
fast in another direction.
Looking around from
sign to handmade
sign, I dreamt
the lot of us
had heard
an SOS
and
answered,
gathering
against
an evil hour,
keeping faith
to make our stand,
in the last bookstore in town.

Those (of a certain age) committed to literature might quickly intuit the meaning of the stanza’s inversion. A cultural institution gets eroded from the center inward, enduring an attack on its countercultural tradition while nonetheless taking a stand (even if that stand is pacific and delivered from folding chairs). It’s an act that seems particularly appropriate for the Bay Area, a misty nirvana currently under siege by slick tech giants.

So klipschutz’s ode comes with urgency. It’s an urgency marked by memory and fueled by the terrifying prospect that we might choose not to resist. Books are precarious, loving them more so. Dedicating a life to text is an expression of defiance in a culture that’s increasingly gutted by commerce and intellectual indifference. And so on.

It’s good to be reminded of this truth. Its necessity. The experience of browsing shelves for hidden gems, with the faith that something critical depends on it, stands in empowering contrast to “everything outside moving / fast in another direction.” And thus one pleasure of this volume: klipschutz winks with those of us who know just how subversive this position can feel, a rare and therapeutic empathy we didn’t know we needed, until it came at us, poem after poem.

Charm leavens klipschutz’s nostalgia. He writes poems that remind us how, like most weapons of the weak, great poetry evokes the inner glow of living well, of exploring deeply, and of taking reality neat and straight. This book honors old souls with the fortitude to equate worlds and words, knowing intuitively that language does not represent so much as embody those “regions / scientists will never map.” klipschutz accomplishes all this while reiterating how precarious the space remains between real readers and their increasingly precious, tightly bound, potentially explosive weapons.

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