This gargle of God

This latest entry in City Lights Publishers’ Pocket Poets Series offers a range of new work—in a sort of poetic memoir—from legendary San Francisco beat generation poet David Meltzer. His musical influence—Meltzer is a cellist and harpist, with a great deal of experience in jazz—is also apparent, in the variation of line length and word choices to create a melodic movement within the poems. Retaining an earthy vocabulary, Meltzer still elevates the language, occasionally coining a usage to describe precisely what he’s getting at, as in this section of “Dreams”: “all this gargle of God / lightenment / tenement of broken parts // homeless hearts / out on a looksee / for ecstasy.” Rather than reducing the lost dream of enlightenment to the street, he elevates the street to a new, if fevered, dream of understanding.