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A Question of Gravity and Light (Camino del Sol) Paperback – April 26, 2007
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“Blas Falconer pursues Puerto Rico,sexuality, and the power of objects.This book powerfully maps what has been lost, what can be stolen, and what can be reclaimed.” —Rane Arroyo, author of How to Name a Hurricane
About the Author
BLAS FALCONER is an assistant professor of English at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he teaches poetry and memoir. He is also the poetry editor of Zone 3 magazine and the Zone 3 Press.
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"A Question of Gravity and Light" includes poems from Falconer's debut chapbook, "The Perfect Hour." Since I have already reviewed the chapbook (search for Blas Falconer "The Perfect Hour" on Amazon to find that collection and my review), I will not touch on any of those poems in this review.
Falconer has a great talent for expression through imagery. In "Lament" the subject of the poem "[closes] a door on a field of fireflies." At the end of the poem the reader will find the subject waking up, wondering where the last day has gone, how it passed. Notice, though, how with the concise image of closing a door on a field of fireflies, the poet points out how actively, however unconscious it may seem, we pass up opportunities for awe, magic, things that are rare and exceptional--how responsible we are for the loss of our own time.
Nowhere is Falconer's use of imagery stronger than in "A Story of Winter." This is, quite simply, a powerful poem. The music is very appealing, the tone an rhythm are careful, and the voice is clear yet just understated enough to avoid imposing itself on the poem. What exactly is going on in "A Story of Winter" is unclear. There is snow, a piano, some candles burning. The snow increases and diminishes. The poem may be the progression of one day, of one winter, or many years. What seems rather definite is that a brother and sister were skating on a frozen lake, the ice broke, and the brother was lost. The rest of the poem is an examination of the stillness that winter brings in the sad country home where there is "candlelight / along the walls, wavering. Like water. / Like light on water."
In "What You Know," the primary speaker is being questioned and, again, Falconer's striking image of "the statue of Antaeus, / his body in the arms / of another man" and how the speaker "thought it was love" is turned in the last lines of the poem to show how when we experience loss, we go through some change in how we perceive what we have lost. "And now? / I know he was crushing him." There are different ways of interpreting the speaker's change in perspective. Perhaps the speaker has grown from experience and recognizes that what he believed was love was, in fact, something else. However, the poet may be pointing out that when we lose something that is good, we must try to remember it as something that was bad or hurtful to cope with the loss, to convince ourselves that we have actually gained some goodness by losing something.
"Gravity and Light" includes a series of poems with the common title "Letter From the Cumberland," the Cumberland being a river in Tennessee (Falconer currently resides in Nashville). In one "Letter From the Cumberland" (p. 43) the tone of the book makes a defined shift from focusing mainly on loss and dwelling on loss to the idea that restoration, or at least something beyond loss, may be possible. The speaker sees a "bronze bird... / tipped wings spread / as if it could." Could what? Fly? Withstand the wind? We cannot say exactly from the context of the poem, and it really is not important. The point is that the speaker sees possibility. The irony, of course, is that the bird is not a living bird, but a bronze statue. So the speaker may be assessing the situation of the bird as futile, as though it does not matter what position the bronze animal was given by its sculptor, since the thing will never move. Perhaps possibility is only a pose.
In "Prayer" the poet notes that as night falls, everything blends into darkness and there are no shapes, the world becomes one consistent shape of nothing. However, in the concluding stanza the speaker asks that "all... / in time and shape, / become themselves again." The context of the poem would suggest that the speaker is referring to the many inanimate objects and material possessions in his home be as they were before when light returns. Maybe this is the speaker's small step, the first longing, that those things which should not have any power to move on their own, should not have any power to leave or walk away, will not develop it. It may be a call for control, for the speaker's desire alone to make as much difference as action, to become a natural law, like the laws of physics that should keep all objects in their places unless they are acted upon. The speaker may be asking that, at least this one night, no action be taken but his own. Let something wait for him to wake up, let the world stop while he does. Of course, one may infer from the poem that the speaker's desires go well beyond the realm of inanimate objects and that what the speaker is really pleading for is that when something is lost to, or obscured by, darkness that they can be the same, that they can be restored to what they were by the return of light.
"The Battle of Nashville" presents the reader with a speaker resolved to be part of something good, something living despite the possibility of loss. "We're not brave / but we find each other in bed at night," he says, and "I think they are afraid. I think this is love." Things may change, death may come, we may not always stand up as others do for what we believe in, we may lose each other. But maybe love is staying even when we know all of that. Maybe love is fighting all of that.