The Largeness of Rescue. Eva Tihanyi. Inanna Publications & Education Inc. Toronto, Ontario. 2016
Eva Tihanyi won us over pretty early into her excellent The Largeness of Rescue. Tihanyi is so eloquently reasonable that we started to hope she could explain everything.
Then we read "Bridge" which was written in memory of Dorothy Farmiloe and recognized immediately that we were on terra firma. Today's book of poetry has long admired Dorothy Farmiloe and so we went to the stacks this morning and were able to retrieve three chapbooks and one trade volume of poems. Poems for Apartment Dwellers (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1970), Winter Orange Mood (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1972) and Blue Is The Colour Of Death (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1973), and Words For My Weeping Daughter (Penumbra Press, 1980).
Doronthy Farmiloe (1921-2015) published ten poetry books/chapbooks by our estimation, another ten or eleven published books in different fields, but has never been widely known or championed, Today's book of poetry has always thought she had the real goods and are tickled pink that Tihanyi thinks it too. Eva Tihanyi giving Dorothy Farmiloe the nod tells Today's book of poetry plenty.
Circles and Lines
July 31, 1960
Chet Baker races toward Viareggio,
the late afternoon road uncoiling
like a languid serpent, the horizon
an illusion of certainty, his quest for home
a stubborn unacknowledged longing
without end or consolation.
Needs, wants, must have a fix.
Stops at a gas station in Lucca, locks
himself in the washroom,
does not reappear.
Time passes. The attendant knocks,
then bangs, keeps banging, eventually
When the police arrive,
they find a disheveled man
standing dazed before the blood-spattered sink
syringe in hand.
It will linger for days, the stench
of Paco Rabanne cologne and week-old sweat.
Is it tragedy when you choose?
The trial eight months later
is sensational, the defendant
San Giorgio Penitentiary looms
at the centre of town, its medieval walls
and black windows as unrepentant
as its celebrity prisoner who, for years a vagrant
in his own life, is now jailed in it.
The second wife has been discarded,
the new mistress ensconced in the Hotel Universo,
the press duly scandalized.
Served: an Italian drama
of operatic proportions..
The world laps it up
like a thirsty dog.
Before the arrest, a triumph:
Chet Baker plays Il Bussolotto,
a grand nightclub lounge on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The patrons anoint him their trombo d'oro, adore
the intimate coolness of his jazz worship
in the summer air.
What they don't see:
how at the end of the night
he tosses his horn on the piano
rushes out for the next fix.
How in the morning
the sun falls in
through the sea-facing picture window,
alights on the tarnished horn, such sad beauty.
Art is not a closed circle
or a straight line.
The heart embraces its craving, the blood rises,
a great irrational wave washing over
the unsuspecting bones, and all is deluged
in its red tidings, the secret song divulged,
its rhythm, rhythm, rhythm
beating some time into submission, beating time.
If this were true, it couldn't be said.
And to hold it: impossible
as a signature on water.
Church bells and lone trumpet --
the sounds of Lucca that summer
as the locals gather along the promenade
to hear "Someone to Watch Over Me"
in the evening stillness.
During the day Chet Baker plays chess,
waits for visits from his mistress
who waits for his release.
Even the air waits.
And every night the sound
of the brooding trumpet, tendrils of melody
curling and winding, climbing and falling,
tender above all.
There is nothing as seductive as genius.
Women will endure almost anything for it, the lure
of greatness, the shiny hook
upon which adulation squirms.
The young man in the jeans and white T-shirt
has it, the chiseled dark glamour,
the allure of those
who resist being loved.
The woman are many and various,
the trumpet's charismatic notes
sliding into their ears like promiscuous tongues.
Chet Baker looks down while he plays,
speaks little, smiles less.
He is a Gabriel for sinners,
a corrupt angel resisting rescue.
But they all try to save him, the women.
.After prison Chet Baker is Chet Baker.
No closed circle, no straight line.
The mistress eventually becomes the wife,
bears him three children.
Many years from now at his funeral
a vase of white roses
will suddenly and inexplicably shatter,
strewing flowers and broken glass
as her feet.
As most of you faithful readers already know - a good jazz poem will sucker punch Today's book of poetry every time. And "Circles and Lines" is a doozey.
Write about Saint Chet of Baker or Lady Sir Charlie Parker and you will get our full attention. Write about them well and you end up on this blog, were it possible we'd throw throw garlands at your feet.
If it were only Dorothy Farmiloe and jazz Today's book of poetry would be happy enough but there is so much more of value going on in The Largeness of Rescue. Tihanyi is trying to figure out that most difficult thing - how to be a good person. Today's book of poetry comes away from The Largeness of Rescue thinking that Tihanyi wants us to celebrate as much as we can, whatever small victories we inhabit, Tihanyi's poems suggest we celebrate them. This is good advice.
To focus on not focusing:
sometimes this is the answer,
Remember: all that is placed in water
either sinks or floats.
You are your own forest,
and all the green shimmering
and all the darkness.
What gathers in the margins
of your invisible life
is depleted and replenished
as time, in its alternating current
of hope and hopelessness
Look it in the eye:
the horror and the wonder
that is transience.
Where there is fear,
celebration cannot enter.
Eva Tihnayi describes love as the cat in her poem "The Schrodinger Principle". Today's book of poetry has always assumed that the practical lesson to be learned from the Schrodinger Principle is that life doesn't exist until you actively engage in it. You have to open the box, you have to jump into love, before you'll have any idea of what it is or where it will go. Of course Today's book of poetry is frequently wrong.
There was some head shaking around our skeptical office this morning but Today's book of poetry is with Tihanyi when she says "but I will always side with love."
Eva Tihnayi has published eight previous poetry collections but when we checked our shelves we could only put our hands on two of them, Prophecies Near the Speed of Light (Thistledown Press, 1984) and In The Key Of Red (Inanna Publications, 2010). Those both got passed around along with the Dorothy Farmiloe at our morning read today. A few poems slipped out and that was just fine, there is nothing we like more at our morning read than variety and context.
A constellation of endings,
loss after loss.
You are supposed to be happy.
It is summer, after all.
Yet it is hard to watch
history repeat itself,
but never the same.
And it is always personal
though from a distance
we don't admit this.
you watch over your mother.
you watch over your sister.
On your watch
love never falters.
Hope. Today's book of poetry always loves to see hope and are reassured by The Largeness of Rescue that hope is still a good thing. Eva Tihanyi's template for a more understanding, listening, tolerant and mentoring world is one we can all get behind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOREva Tihanyi teaches at Niagara College and divides her time between Port Dalhousie (St. Catharines) and Toronto. The Largeness of Rescue is her eighth volume of poetry. She has also published a collection of short stories, Truth and Other Fictions.
BLURBSThe big theme—perhaps the only theme—is the narrative that unfolds between the bookends of our birth and our death. Each of us is born into a time and place—our present—and must answer the questions only we can answer for ourselves: Who are we? What will we do? What choices will we make? The Largeness of Rescue helps us travel along our own storyline by doing what the best art does so well: engages us with ourselves and with our world, and encourages us to slow down and consider our very humanness.
“The Largeness of Rescue is a book of both restlessness and acceptance; both a longing for clarity and a reconciliation. In this way, the poems form a moving whole, seeking resolution in the larger embrace of art.”
—Anne Michaels, Author of Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault
"Eva Tihanyi’s The Largeness of Rescue explores the many ways we both long for and resist rescue—rescue from ourselves, from each other, from the vagaries of the world. These poems sit poised at the cusp of a paradox, that place between “hope and hopelessness,” “horror and wonder” (“Precept”) where the personal explodes into the public realm. “I” becomes “you” becomes “we.” This is a book about borders, about “the middle place of possibility” that can move us past “carrion fear.” Tihanyi’s cycle contains both shorter lyrics and long poems, some of which explore the lives of artists and visionaries whose work sustained a precarious creativity: the Romantic poets, T.S. Eliot, and jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Among these luminaries, also arise the poet’s peers, family, friends, fellow artists, and loves. The book reveals how, not despite, but though our common uncertainties and frailties, we hold the power to rescue. Rescue becomes not only a noun but a verb. Choosing to become rescuers (each in our own small way) is in itself a means of rescue. In the end it is the heart’s measure that proffers hope: “but always I will side with love / and always I will choose.”
—Susan McCaslin, author of Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga and The Disarmed Heart
"The Largeness of Rescue is a grave and tender collection, much preoccupied with issues of choice and destiny, and how they resonate throughout our lives. “Is it a tragedy when you choose?” she asks of the self-destructive jazz genius Chet Baker, and envisions T .S. Eliot turning his back on the “bad Russian novel” of his life to “foray into literature / on a plank of contrived neutrality / which he himself does not trust.” Most of the personae of these poems are nameless and their struggles and regrets less celebrated, but no less resonant: having been laughed at at twelve for his clumsiness, a man refuses to dance, in later years, with the wife who loves dancing, so that “Eventually / no one is dancing.” What connects them all is an awareness of life’s central paradox: we are always hoping to arrive somewhere better, even though all we have is the present moment."
—Susan Glickman, author of Safe as Houses
"With clarity and insight, Eva Tihanyi’s poetry offers both personal revelation and mature reflection on art, time and history. Serene in spirit and precise in language, The Largeness of Rescue is her finest work."
—Carole Giangrande, author of Here Comes the Dreamer and Midsummer
"Among my favorite poems in this reflective collection are those tributes Eva Tihanyi composes to the artist. There is her powerful evocation of Chet Baker and the “tendrils of melody” and charismatic notes” that emanate from his “brooding trumpet”; the complex mix of his giftedness, his inconsolability, the lure of fame and the prison of his addiction. Then too, she offers a rich portrait of T. S. Eliot, who struggled to “crack the code of his insurgent heart”; and before him, Tihanyi remembers the legacy of the Romantic Poets, the places they lived and their “allegiance to words,” which can “ignite like a tiny sun.” As she notes the particulars of all their lives, and the continuum of learning our own, Tihanyi asks that we pledge to live—to live in love—in spite of the paradoxes which fill this collection with subdued wonder."
—Carol Lipszyc, author of The Saviour Shoes and Other Stories and Singing Me Home
"Long-time readers of Eva Tihanyi’s powerful poetry have always appreciated her clarity and candor. Now, in her eighth collection, The Largeness of Rescue, we see the poet’s deep reckoning with loss, longing and mortality. Whether it’s a student crying in her office, or the slow demise of jazz genius Chet Baker, or the poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley in Italy, Tihanyi’s soulful poems show an intrimate understanding of life—and often the great human cost of art. Tihanyi offers us poetry that whispers from one heart to another."
—Bruce Hunter, author of Two O'Clock Creek, new and selected poetry and In The Bear's House
"Eva Tihanyi writes with clarity by employing powerful metaphors and epigrammatic language with an unflinching philosophical honesty to capture the conditions of our lives. If there is a dark atmosphere in some of these poems, there is also an underlying hope expressed in tender affirmation."
—Laurence Hutchman, author of Beyond Borders
“Art is not a closed circle / or a straight line.” Eva Tihanyi’s poems evoke many moments of art, from Chet Baker’s music drifting from an Italian prison to a cave artist place handprints on rock. She pieces these moments together along the curving trails of lyric and perception."
—Alice Major, author of Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science and Memory's Daughter
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