Infinite Days


Alan Britt

Infinite Days
Bitter Oleander Press
171 pages, $16

Alan Britt’s poems grant immediate access without pomp or circumstance; the expansion happens not in any struggle to get inside the poem, but in what occurs when you are there, and after you’ve left it. His observations about the world as he passes through it are offered as a matter of course, as part of the flow of his experience, an unblockable flow as natural as rain or conversation; but despite the often casual tone, we are left with the echoes of his imagery: dimensions of awareness that are inherent in every object and incident, but that go largely ignored in the usual daily flow. In some instances, the poems describe this action they take on our consciousness:

I wish I had their feet,
or just one small foot
with its fish-like motion
& quickness
that leaves its blue after-image
on my solitude.

This kind of relaxed perception of the unseen is what most people leave behind with early childhood. Britt’s retention of this thread to the magical gives his poetry a childlike—though never naïve—quality; an openness to experience that leads to immediate and constant exploration. His non-judging acceptance of the world he sees allows the charge to be felt by him and by us, and transmits, in imagery, the imaginative powers that lie within everything around us. In “Taco Bell…Early Spring,”

urgent whispers of two school girls
like honey bees circle the purple eyelashes
of yet another howling & wet, infant spring.

Solitude comes up frequently in the collection, as if the author observes from a very alone state, and contact is made most meaningfully in his metaphysical encounters with the world, as when, in “The Grasshopper and the Mower, or the Mower’s Song,” he looks closely at a grasshopper and the whole world opens up in that intimate, true seeing.

In the opening piece of the book, a sort of an essay poem, Britt concludes, in observation of Van Gogh’s work, “Wisdom & intelligence housed therein is immeasurable, but felt & understood immediately.” This could be said of Britt’s work, with its accessibility coupled with depth. No highfalutin education is needed to experience what he is doing. One could go on about the various categories he falls into (and slips out of)—immanentist, surrealist, deep image, language poetry, magical realism—but energy would be better spent dispensing with all that (like Whitman) and simply reading the poems as and for themselves, and ruminating on the levels of the unconscious that are brought to light by the poet’s instincts.

His clumsy grace,
it occurs to me,
is precisely that of a poet’s
whose inky talons
grasp at a sudden
dark movement
inside a poem.
(“Just North of Charlottesville, Virginia”)


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