King Amour

by Jack Foley


so what reveals itself,
admirable author,
at this difficult point
of your being?


  Excerpt from the poem "Lines"
extracted from the book King Amour
 p. 70

King Amour
by Jack Foley

Published July 15, 2010
By Argotist ebooks
Cover image: Leonard Breger
Language: English
Pages 74
File Format: PDF
File Size:  329.3 kB

Available Free Online

Jack Foley's book, King Amour, a collection of poems that reflect this prolific poet's history, provides poems that span five decades of his life, the earliest poem written in his twenties and the latest written as he approached his 70th birthday. The unique juxtaposition of poems (not presented chronologically) about aging, death and desire seek answers to the deepest mysteries of life.  Appropriately, the collection reaches no conclusion and leaves the reader in a state of raw honesty, guessing at life, wondering. 

This collection, put together by a man for whom June 5, 2010 was officially declared by the City of Berkeley, "Jack Foley Day" (celebrated at The Berkeley Poetry Festival, 2010), attempts to comprehend what five decades of writing poetry have been worth.  This book takes stock.  It counts up.

Stylistically, the poems in this collection are both nomadic and settled, roving and established.  Jack does not pitch his tent in anyone's territory, nor does he set up his own tent and wait for followers.  Rather, like a pilgrim in search of answers, he moves with his poetry across the vast field of poetry, experimenting with established devices. Take for example, his poem, "CHARMES," reminiscent of Mallarme's constellations.  But, don't be mistaken, though he plays with all forms of poetry, Jack Foley  is his own horse. Anticipating the technological advances that now make it possible to deliver multiple poems simultaneously, both visually and aurally, Jack Foley has, over the years, set poems in parallel vertical columns, implying simultaneity of presentation, and with his poet wife Adelle, has performed these poems in chorus, a vertical bard.

Despite his breakthroughs in poetry, Jack is not one to create a style and spend the rest of his life explaining it to others. He keeps moving. He writes constantly, in varied forms, at the speed of light. He writes poems in response to response to news response to his own inner urgings of desire, the death of friends...the tangible, the intangible...the funny...the sad.  At times thumbing his nose at the status quo, he's not afraid to use rhyme and rhythm, and he frequently sets up a childish sing-song tempo and tone to create tension, as in his chorus poem, "Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan.

Sexual desire is a type of death.  It prefigures the process of aging and the death of self, as a primal urge overtakes the body and the intellect, diminishing self control.  Charity and kindness toward others are sometimes forsaken when a person, consumed by desire, drives toward personal satisfaction.  Desire is a trickster.  In the distance it appears to be love.  We are willing to forgo everything to reach it, thinking we are reaching the heart.  But once gained, we find it folly.  Many of the poems in this collection juxtapose desire with death, either directly in the poem itself, or by poem placement.  Take for example this excerpt from the book's title poem, "King Amour."

     ---Desire has been riding   riding   riding   riding

                               riding   riding   riding     riding

                                           riding all night to find help for Coeur!-----
                                                                                                  (p. 27)

and his poem titled "Piaf,"

Her songs express
obsession, violent love,
Self-delusion so intense
It is an alternative reality
We long to share--
her marvelous eyes
And that incredible, bone-revealing voice
                                                              (p. 39)

and the suicide of Paul Celan,

Had an affair that rang their bells
had an affair that rang their bells
Though Paul was married to someone else
Though Paul was married to someone else
Though Paul was married, their love was a tide
Though Paul was married, their love was a tid
Till Paul Committed suicide
Till Paul committed suicide
This sad story we tell and tell
This sad story we tell and tell

This collection also holds Jack Foley's landmark poems: "Turning 40,"  "Chorus: Fifty,"  "Portrait at Sixty," and "On turning 70,"  the combination of which challenge the reader to look, heed, render attention to the passing of time, the approach of death.  Although we write about poetry in the present tense, implying perpetuity, poets do age and die. 

In a poem written for Leslie Scalapino and Dennis Hopper, Jack Foley writes,

we are all dust
even Hopper
even Scalapino
no matter what or what's
to this grave truth
we make obeisance
mortal are we
like Leslie
like Dennis:
Close their eyes.

Is it possible for a sincere poet, a writer who has lived so long, produced so many poems in such a breadth of styles, to enter his 70th decade of life, without reflecting on purpose?  Apparently not.  This collection of poetry takes stock of five decades, and it's only  weakness  is there are not enough poems in this 74 page volume to satisfy the reader. 

Like a trick of desire, it leaves the reader wanting more, wanting more.