Hogg, The Seven Last Words

by Barry Callaghan
144 pages,
ISBN: 1552782468

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Callaghan's Vision of Russia
by Frank Westcott

The painter paints. The writer writes. The poet, when he is good, paints with his words drawing you into his work. The pallet is experience, the oils, words evoking our imagination's canvas. Barry Callaghan in Hogg ,The Seven Last Words, brings his poet's brush to Hogg's landscape of 20th century Russia.

I ask this poet, "Is the true profundity in what is not said? In the brush not applied? Is it in the silences and gaps that we find the soul of the poet? Do we find the soul of Hogg¨in what Barry Callaghan has left unsaid, framed by what he has written in Hogg, the Last Seven Words?"

These are poems of the existential word-painting:
Stones lose their wings
and lie
in common ground,
wear a crown of earth.
['Fathers & Sons' ; p76; lines 1-4]

Poetry that is brilliant:

...whipping stalls stood empty,
only the stain remained
as men ladling stars
from root cellars
saw aureolas appear
around their eyes, a promise of rain,
['Wishboned' ; p58; lines 7-12]

Hogg, the Last Seven Words is poetry of war, and death, and love, and hate¨a song with no audible middle, no chorus, beginnings and endings. Yet, Callaghan draws you into a middle, invisible to the eye, but seen by the ear.

These are poems of love the hard way:

When you undo my blouse you undo my bones,
like a king who sucks the toes
of his slaves,
you feed me your own hunger.
['Hunger' ; p79 ; lines 14 - 17]
And these are poems that are like an ebullition:

...and promised love lasts longer
in the salt of unshed tears.
[Her Mother ; p67 ; lines 19-20]
And this is poetry of unusual joy-visions:

... he twirled his moustache,
brushed a sapphire bloom of snow
from the sleeve
of a prince orphaned by war
and said "Here is happiness,
little ice on the wind."
[At the Winter Palace ; p72 ; lines 10-15]

My favorite: Shearing where God, sheep, and counting sheep, white, and black come together. But in the counting and in the reading I find also the poetry of desperation:

...love is a silent prayer
sung for the living
by the dead.
[At Dostoyevsky's Grave; p111; lines 14-16]
This is poetry of power:

Hogg held the boy up to the sun
but he swung his legs
and arms
shielding his eyes
[Sun Dance; p14; lines 15-20]

And, in the space between spaces, in these poems, you will find images of the strange redemption found in brutality. Russia. Leningrad. The twentieth century. Profundity. Emotional depths as in the poem "The Maiming" bring it all to an end in that space between spaces where:

..scar tissue in his eyes
"Dreams, never names, are lost at sea."
['The Astoria Hotel' ; p15 ; lines 7-8]
And finally, this is poetry of introspection where truth is found in the lie:

She offered her body bare
for his blessing.
No regrets.
They denied duplicity
by giving
each other
the lie:
I'll love you till I die.
['As Time Goes By' ; p17 ; lines 4-11]

Callaghan paints with the brush of the true poet, endowing each brush stroke with sound, and movement, and stillness all at once¨like music. Callaghan's song is heard against the invisible where:

...dark is closing in, it will be light opening
up at the seams.
['Sleepwalker' ; p19 ; Lines 16-17]

Barry Callaghan is a poet who sings the note between the notes and plays where the black notes strike the fingers on the cusp of a minor key.

This poet writes freely, with image finite and clear:
...a footloose gaiety just
like Godiva's dance of ankle bells
up the stairs in Leningrad,
O Godiva, goodbye, I'd forgotten,
even when I can't breathe I want to live...
['Osip Mandelstam Moves His Lips'; p29; lines 16-20]˛


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