With the long poem, Atlas, Glenn Bach documents his ongoing investigation of place, meaning, and memory.
Originating with Atlas Peripatetic, begun in 2004, and which used the urban sounds of Long Beach, California as a jumping off point, Atlas has expanded to encompass additional texts inspired by significant places in Glenn’s life, such as Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Big Sur.
Incorporating a variety of creative techniques, including sampling, remix, erasure, and observation, Atlas illuminates the emotional and mysterious relationships we often have with the landscape. With Atlas, Glenn has consolidated his poetry practice into a single poem that continues to unfold in scope and complexity.
Atlas updates and links may be found here, as well as on Twitter (@AtlasCorpus).
“A Peek at Glenn Bach’s Atlas Peripatetic (54),” Night Stream Journey, 10 April 2008.
The selection from Glenn Bach’s Atlas Peripatetic that appears in Pinstripe Fedora 3 begins with piece 54, which is practically buried in amulets of liminality. The first phrase refers us to a “hidden place”; change often occurs in such a locale. Then there is a crow, a living bird associated with death and the transition there. Note as well that the only word capitalized in this poem is “From”– twice, both times as part of a prepositional phrase that implies emergence.
Each of these phrases is followed by a piled-up column of phrases (in the latter case of “of” phrases). First we find a list of actions the deathly bird carries out. For the purposes of establishing the primacy of transition, what each of these acts implies is not as important as the simple fact that a crow does so much. That said, its “call[ing] out a double quality” echoes the double nature of the living bird of death.
In the second case, the column gives us details of what “we” are studying of the courtyard, including “that it hides”. This naturally raises the question of how one can study what is hidden, though perhaps the presence of the details around it, especially the somewhat mysterious “detention” (a nod to the zeitgeist?), may provide a clue. More importantly for this poem’s liminality, all these details lead at last to the study of transformation, though this is not allowed to become our conclusion or resting place, thanks to the interruption (marked with a dash) of “this handsome stroke of crow” as if some artist (let us say Glenn Bach himself) had painted it there to announce our time of transition not to death but to another poem. (I would go too far were I to call this a small death.) In the end, we walk on to another poem in Bach’s sequencing of materials gathered on morning walks– walking as transition from one place to another, morning as a liminal time.
–Elizabeth Kate Switaj
Thanks to the editors of the following journals for agreeing to publish excerpts (note that the published excerpt may be different than the current version):
21 Stars Review, 42opus, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Alba, ‘a-pos-tro-phe, The Argotist Online, Aught, Black Robert Journal, Black Zinnias, Big Bridge #12, Brick and Mortar Review, CAB/NET, Chiron Review, DIAGRAM, Dusie, Experiential-Experimental-Literature, foam:e, Free Verse, Great Works, Hamilton Stone Review, horse less review, hutt, Idiolexicon, Indefinite Space, jubilat, Konundrum Engine Literary Review, Listenlight, Malleable Jangle, Melancholia’s Tremulous Dreadlocks, Moonlit, mprsnd, On Barcelona, Otoliths, Pearl, pganickz’s journal, Pinstripe Fedora, Plumwood Mountain, Pom-Pom-Pomeranian, puppyflowers, Saint Elizabeth Street, Sawbuck, Shampoo, Sheila-Na-Gig, Snorkel, Softblow, stonestone, There, The Tiny, Upstairs at Duroc, The Wandering Hermit Review, Whimperbang, Wild Orphan, and Zafusy.
excerpts from Atlas (first lines)
Early morning vapor condenses
This expanding combustion of suns.
Most noble this memorable
We know the burned air
star wheel, no
thin legs rubbed
Everyone thinks of the watering of roses
the flurry of birdsong and a whipping of marks
From a hidden place—
Worry about fires! There is no wood
We signed the sky with ten thousand palms
This is important.
Bottlestrain, a porous layer
Coo and flight
Lay yourself down before us
Sensor drift, sounds
Let these drawings show
Speak volumes, between the raking of leaves
The liminal dimensions of bodies
Kill and be rough
Here, there are fires in the road,
What celebration of newfound freedom
Like it or not these flocks
For future air no fine mist
hull like a hard rain
Pretend the world is a garden
A crime is doing something wrong
Sing a song, these slow pedestrians
They go their own way, these artists
Of the glass and tap
A pipe clangs like a chime in the distance
ooh and aah points
this new observatory
Acid in the throat and it burns
–a hard sell and a whim
The native word was rind
weather for the broadcast
Between sun and observer
On the surface
Fake, in question
What answers at the center of Ptolemy’s cosmos
–to cause a dirty stir
Less noble than stones
((Coast) of Coast)
Branches, as well as true wood and stubborn roots
Hammering and the like
the soft scuffle of black
hammer nor a sledge
–full text of the opera–
Long before the air
During the spring birds fly
What variants of lamentation
Dust, with fingers,
The real secret about the world
In the flecked prose of America, a knee-slapper of dust clouds
A new kind of kick. Listen metal
Water column of rain or shine (forthcoming in 8 Poems, January 2019)
With vane not only air. If there is no easy.
Nebulous references to alleged incidents.
Great fun! The entire area you wish more power on tap.
Slow turn, slow.
Tendered by a coin.
Sweet longing of brass burst and clothes stiffen.
Red clay dust on the windshield.
snow, snow (spelling
no surprise / the dark /
corollas blossom as hops
Know that autumn
all contents of the country
What lies in the origin (forthcoming in Barren Magazine)
Start by emergent terrain (forthcoming in Barren Magazine)