I had the good fortune to meet Gary Lilley in Chicago in the early "aughts" at Nina Corwin's and Al DeGenova's venue at Molly Malone's. After we both read during the open mic, we spoke kind words to one another about our work. Further discussion revealed that we shared a poet in our past who had influenced the way we both approached the line--Keith Wilson. That's a long story I'll leave for another time.
This is about Gary--an introduction to a terrific poet whose poems sound like part Stradivarius, part blues saxophone, and part southern gospel singer--successfully blending virtuosic craftmanship, blues soul, and moral import--something quite unique in the world of non-sequiter, non-consequencial assemblages of lines that sometimes pass for poetry today--until you hear the real thing. And Gary Lilley is the real thing! Listen (read aloud) the following opening poem to his second collection, The Subsequent Blues, and you'll hear what I mean:
Prelude To The Predicament
Ain't you the image, a part of the creator,
when you got love growing in the garden
ain't everything raised in its warmth,
asked the snake.
Thickets grew in the path,
air beneath the trees fouled
and birds shied to the sky.
Wolves howled behind
the red of their teeth,
vultures reversed their spiral
and discovered a taste for death.
Seeping fell like stones.
A saxophone wind, the first low notes,
wailed the story of troubles forever.
They ran, mouths wide open,
eyes pinpointed and seeing nothing
but ground moving backwards
under their flying feet.
Or, better yet, hear Gary read his own work, like "It's About the Ponies" on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ple6JHraEn8
Even better yet, buy copies of his two books, Alpha Zulu and The Subsequent Blues, get a bottle of good bourbon (or not) and and spend an evening rearranging your head and rediscovering your heart. And, if you ever make it up to Port Townsend, Washington, find out where's he's reading and hear him in person.
In the mean time, I'm going to devote a few posts to his work. Stay tuned...these are just "the first low notes." More "wailing" and "stories of troubles" are a comin'.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Gary Lilley, Blues Poet
was born in the Midwest, grew up in New Mexico, and has lived in the San Francisco bay area for two decades. Terry has published in numerous literary journals, including Best New Poets 2012, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review, Great River Review, New Millennium Writings, and The Comstock Review. His work has garnered six Pushcart Prize nominations. He is the winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry. His chapbook, Altar Call, was a winner in the the 2013 San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, and appears in the Anthology, Diesel. His chapbook, If They Have Ears to Hear, won the 2012 Copperdome Poetry Chapbook Contest, and is available from Southeast Missouri State University Press. His first full-length collection of poems, In This Room (CW Books, 2016), is now available, and his second, Dharma Rain, was released by Saint Julian Press in October of 2016. Terry is a 2008 poetry MFA graduate of New England College, and a free-lance poetry consultant. For more information about him and his work see www.terrylucas.com