Speech & Spirit & Wind


I Think This May Be Eden, by Nathaniel Tarn, CD, $14.00, from Spoken Engine, PO Box 771739, Memphis TN 38177 / 1997



 Sitting, facing the sun, eyes closed

 I can hear the sun

 I can hear the bird life all around for miles

 It flies through us and around us

 It takes up all space

 As if we not there

 As if we had never interrupted this place...



It is marvelous to be so alone the two of us

In this garden desert



We catch only a distant echo


Beyond the birds there are persons

Carrying their names like great weights

Just think, carrying X your whole life

Or Y or Z...

Having to be A all the time or B or C.


Here you can be the sun, the pine, the bird

You can be the breathing


I can tell you, I think this may be Eden

I think it is.


(Playing time, 2:15 min.)



This first track from Nathaniel Tarn’s CD I Think This Must Be Eden is perfect, not nearly perfect, simply a perfect way to begin. From the selection I transcribed from the recording, the reader can glimpse that this poem is about reading, about poetry, or rather it is not about the act of reading but is a felt instance of it, transmitted to us through language. It allows us a renewed awareness of how the poem can enter into the reader and make a transformation, so that we become as birds, as the sun itself. No longer burdened by the single identity that weighs us down, instead we are moved by the poem, lifting us out of this single-visioned self, the single-visioned sleep Blake warned against, and into the multi-verse. And it is Eden. And aside from sex, which works the same way, splitting the armored self, driving us out of time and into eternity,  it is the only one we have. We all know it. Or we do when we hear it, seldom when we see it, read it. And this is why this recording of Tarn’s voice, accompanied by the music of Billy Panda, is so important.

My main interest in performance poetry is poetry that is essentially oral, oral by its very nature, speech based, not spoken textual poetry. I am not a big fan of performed poetry taken from the page, and all of these recordings are from Tarn’s various publications, turned to multi-media. Words plus music usually means for me the covering up of flawed language, weak words boosted by sound instead of the sound of language lifting the listener. But This Must Be Eden makes me again a fan of Tarn’s poetry. After this sound tour through Tarn’s several books and four digitally published poems for Temblar, I pulled out The Beautiful Contradictions and Lyrics for the Bride of God and read on, with the sound of Tarn’s voice guiding my way.

I fantasize often that we have a genuine culture, and that there are multitudes who care about that culture and promote it, support it, and thereby affirm it. In those fantasies, I hear Tarn’s sonorous voice booming from the halls of creative writing classes, literature classes, music classes. In the most extreme fantasies, I hear Billy Panda’s guitar introducing Tarn’s word while I drive to work, walk through the shopping center. In such a culture this poet is more important than Madonna. But this is no fantasy, and maintaining the culture is not up to anyone but us. And Tarn challenges us with every utterance, but no more so than with this, from Architextures:

     Isn’t it the end now?

     Isn’t it the truth now

     that we no longer surmise where we are

     that the art no longer knows where it is?

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