Schizophrenia may be characterized by a surfeit of language, a refurbishment of our used up words with musical connections every day speech and sense cannot provide. These riffs are "clangings," and Cramer imagines them into a poetic narrative that exults in both aural richness and words' power to evoke an interior landscape whose strangeness is intimate, unsteady, and stirring.
I hear the dinner plates gossip
Mom collected to a hundred.
My friends say get on board,
but I'm not bored. Dad's a nap
lying by the fire. That's why
when radios broadcast news,
news broadcast from radios
gives air to my kinship, Dickey,
who says he'd go dead if ever
I discovered him to them.
I took care, then, the last time
bedrooms banged, to tape over
the outlets, swipe the prints
off DVDs, weep up the tea
stains where once was coffee.
Not one seep from him since.
About the Author
Steven Cramer is the author of four previous poetry collections: The Eye that Desires to Look Upward, The World Book, Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand, and Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande Books, 2004), which won the 2005 Sheila Motton Prize from the New England Poetry Club and was a 2005 Honor Book in Poetry by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. His poems and criticism have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Atlantic Monthly, FIELD, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Poetry, and Triquarterly; as well as in the first and second edition of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry; Living in Storms: Contemporary Poetry and the Moods of Manic-Depression; and The POETRY Anthology, 1912- 2002. Recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, he currently directs the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, which was named by Poets & Writers as one of the top ten low-residency MFA programs in the country.
Clangings' are specialized modes of speech schizophrenics and manics use to express themselves, and identify themselves, and communicate, so desperately and wittily and forlornly and with such resourceful energy. That's wonderfully registered here. But one gets to feel, reading it, that these diagnostically defined ways of using language are only extreme cases of how we all use language. Steven Cramer handles and contends with and profits from that extremely difficult, intensely compressed, stanzaic form, over and over, inventive all the way, hilarious a lot of the time, and scared, scary, distanced and objective, and very moving. Clangings is a wild ride.”
Humane from its aching heart to its flummoxed nether regions, whipsmart, formally acute but unfussy, and entertaining as all hellSteven Cramer's new book shreds our airwaves with an inventiveness that is rare. Rare, as in once-in-a-lifetime-if-you're-lucky rare. It balances perfectly on the knife-edge of improvisation and necessity. Clangings is magnificent.
Steven Cramer’s Clangings is a poetry not of madness, nor even the merely unspeakable, but instead irresistibly musical musings that reveal a command of language only achievable through fierce intelligence and the most piercing wit. A brilliant revision of the clinical term that describes speech that sacrifices sense to sound, here one finds that sound itselfTwo rhymes snagged between rhymes,/ spun puns, all my blinds up in flames./ The voices in noise are getting wise,” as Cramer writes, indeliblyis indeed sense. Poetry is healing here, the astonishing process itself laid out on these pages in all its utterly humane glory.
Rafael Campo, MD
Harvard Medical School, author of The Desire to Heal: A Doctor's Education in Empathy, Identity, and Poetry