Poetry can be a very ephemeral business. That’s why it is a pleasure to see a tenth anniversary edition of Brant Lyon’s chapbook Your Infidel Eyes from Poets Wear Prada.
It is also quite poignant, since Lyon died in 2012, after putting out another fine poetry collection called You Are White Inside. He was also an influential poet and editor on the New York City scene, helping to launch several anthologies for Uphook Press and to start the group great weather for MEDIA.
He was an excellent poet, too, as can be seen by the 14 poems in Your Infidel Eyes, and quite a traveler, as this chapbook has poems set in Mexico, India and Egypt. The poem “Illusion” actually describes himself as starting out as a prisoner of a “stupid” jailer. When he swipes the jailer’s keys and frees himself, he opens the way to go traveling, both physically and metaphysically.
I’m not sure Lyon would relish being called a romantic poet, since the book describes many of the aspects of pain in “I Ching” and compares truth to a spoiled child in the opening poem, “Truth.” And the rain in Mumbai (in “Homesick”) is “poison and its own antidote / As pain is to love, and love to pain.”
Yet You Are White Inside ends with quite a romantic deus ex machina, and I was on the lookout for a similar one here. Even the poisoned rain in India is leavened by the sweet flute music of “a blue skinned god / (who) learned compassion for every living thing.” In “Quang Tri” he remembers that a sick friend’s sketchbook contains images “not (of) grenades but pomegranates.”
There is a poem at the end of this book that give me the romantic denouement I’ve been looking for. It is called “An Outlaw Sura” and it is an exceptional poem, starting “Mine is not a book free / of doubt and involution.” And he realizes in it that while he has made “my devotional obligations” he will always be an infidel, in both physical and metaphysical ways, even though “I have not denied / but been led astray / obeying the forbidden / dictates of my heart.”
And this poem of self-realization, faith and hope ends “In the name of ever-merciful love / I have come to cherish love’s / most benevolent blasphemies.”
Now that’s romantic. And I think there are very few poets who aren’t filled by “doubt and involution” and wouldn’t love to think that by going through the process they might end up with “ever-merciful love.”
So it is a mercy, a tender mercy perhaps, that Poets Wear Prada has chosen to re-issue Lyon’s first book (and, their own first book). A world of pomegranates is infinitely preferable to a world of grenades, and the words of someone who thought so are well worth preserving.
Mark Fogarty’s poetry has been published in Hawaii Review, Viet Nam Generation, Journal of NJ Poets, Exit 13, Unrorean, Eclectic Literary Forum, Cokefishing in Alpha Beat Soup, Footwork, The Brownstone Poets Anthology, The TEA Newsletter, Gallery and The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow. Mark, also a musician, is the author of three poetry collections from White Chickens Press, Myshkin’s Blues, Peninsula and Phantom Engineer.