The Book as Water

Review: silence and license by William L. Fox, Light and Dust Books (7112 27th Ave. Kenosha, WI 53143, dist. SPD), 1994, $9.95, paper only, 0-87924-086-5 and  Wave-Run by Tod Thilleman, Spuyten Duvil (New York City PO Box 1852 Cathedral Station 10025 dist. SPD), $7.95 paper, 1-881471-10-x, $20.00 hard, 1-881471-10-1, 1995.


There are poems, and there are books of poems, and there are poems that are poems-as-books. These two books exist primarily not as poems in collection but poems as books, integrate, complete, a whole art. Both of these books are poems-as-books rather than collections of greatest hits. And since they are not self-published, the writers have been fortunate to have publishers who either shared or shaped their language into the completeness that is the books before me.

Tod Thilleman’s Wave-Run is published by a press new to me Spuyten Duvil of New York City. Wave-Run is 53 pages in a 6x7 format that shows to best advantage the rhythm and pulse of the kennings, alliterative bop / archaic root-word combos that make up the poem that is Wave-Run. And the poem is more than language in celebration of itself, even a song of the sea of itself, it does something special, unique even, something that links Wave-Run to the greatest American poet, Walt Whitman: it returns the city of New York to water, to the sea that gives it life. Wave-Run is a celebration of the poetics of flow, the inter-face (and intra-body) of the line, always in motion and always a reflection of life and light, between land and water, the solid and the shifting. Here is the section that appears near to the end of the poem:

This is the passage wave

Breaking layed-out water

Divides sky from sea-shore

The rounded rocks are

Many contained by one

In a run toward winkled lambence

Waters' weight-mating ply.

And then there is the book silence and license by William L. Fox, but equally by, I suspect, the publisher of Light and Dust Books, Karl Young. If there were an award for the Book-as-Art for inexpensive poetry books, I nominate this one. They typography and the graphic attunement of the book-as-art with the language-as-art is near perfect. The language as presented in this book by this publisher forces the reader to read as if digging into an archeological dig, carefully and layer by layer but all the while being able to read what is most often the most over-looked, if not the most difficult, to read the surface of the thing that is the language of poetry. I can't reproduce much of the book on my word processor program, so I’ll select a small section from another part of the book that interests me as much, for all parts of the book respect the “license” to drive language anywhere the destination draws the poet (and there is a teleological pull to this poem) but also a respect for the silence that makes language possible, demonstrating that it is this tension, as the anagram forces us to recognize, the tension between the void (which must, after all, be lovingly filled, so that silence is also Eros) and the material of language (writing, which is after all of us). And, not surprisingly, Fox, like Thilleman, draws upon our intimate association with water and land, the flow and the resistance to flow:

waves/ the man


waves from shore

at you with

one arm/ at


the boat with

the other/ rising

and falling away/


the edge of

the cliff behind


you/ the sea


rising up in

you/ the boat

and its light.