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Preamble To Divinity
The Magi Image
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Igneus Press. 135 pages paperback
310 North Amherst Road
Bedford, New Hampshire 03110
"I came into this world to divide it."
Vincent Ferrini is a mystic wise guy. His synthesis of sacred and occult overtones in thirties depression slang remains unique from his proletarian days to the present. In his latest book, The Magi Image, the Magi have inspired him to chart the transmission of the unio mystica from Persia to Gloucester. The first thing to be understood about The Magi Image concerns the double play of letters in the title. The letter I insists doubly on linkage to the sacerdotal arts. In this way, Ferrini prepares the reader to put uncertain propositions from astrology, etymology, mythology and psychology in service to his poems.
The Magi Image brings Ferrini into relationship with a world divided on many levels. Under the star of the Epiphany, he takes inspiration from the "division" inscribed through the divine carrier of imagination. From the beginning, divine, animal and human divisions are carefully regarded in Gloucester's crèche. As in Magdellan Silences (1992), he uses the natural phenomena of Gloucester to further the enactment of myth in his daily living. In his opening poem, "ground poem," he takes account of exchange, chance and appetite for fish:I Ah, the seagulls exchanging wings in flight & the humans II a pair of gull tenors croaking praises to the Mother of Chance providing a whole striped bass on a mica plate for breakfast
Ferrini often writes about the double, the immortal self, and the life force. He senses himself as part of the drama of kings. Otto Rank in particular (see especially Beyond Psychology pages 63-101) seems important to understanding Ferrini's grip on both the primordial reality of the double and the sacred duty of kings to preserve the essential life force (84). In "Psalm of Semen," for example, a spermatics of the Magus is brought to bear on the divine infant. Here Ferrini catches for the fish a sense that is at once biological, erotic, moral, and cosmological:Blessed be the Ocean in humans blessed be the headtale the ovary feels for blessed the one fish which has eaten the Book of Genesis & the love Pisces in Amor is demonstrating
The age of Pisces has been the prevailing aion under which Ferrini has expounded the Gloucester fishing epic he shares with Olson. The reader may be familiar with Ferrini from Olson's The Maximus Poems, but the man absolutely commands his own life in poetry, which combines with his twin to found a duofold myth for the city of Gloucester. As it happened, Ferrini's contest with Olson plays out aionically as twins, the rulers of mimesis, to provide an excellent illustration of "The Truth and Life of Myth." Desire for Gloucester, brought home to Ferrini by Olson in 1951, places mimesis, with all its connections to imitation, community, chronology, representation, and rivalry, at the base of a relationship that goes beyond any single text. Olson had found in Gloucester, in the geography of his childhood, a brother, a rival, a twin. Ferrini's mimetic thrust, which would allow him to achieve his particular bond with the community, occupied Gloucester; it provoked Olson to overpower the memory of childhood that could reduce him to sentimentality.
There is a fierce autobiographical impulse to Ferrini's writing that bends to mythological plotting. His bios ran counter to Olson's' effort to project beyond biography "an image of man." (See Charles Stein's The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum p 41 ..) So Olson inscribed him in The Maximus Poems as the necessary figure, the scapegoat without whom Maximus could not speak. Ferrini was badly scolded by the "the hot metal from boiling water" that spilled from The Maximus Poems. Once the complexities of Ferrini's bios and Olson's mythos are considered, the reader's task involves rescuing the double from a cycle of unrelenting morbidity and persecution. The moment the reader considers Ferrini's watery heart the new plot line can be comprehended.Forget everything that ever happened to you dive into the heart's holy water & let its love for you breathe (from "The First Intimations")
Ferrini's love transforms the story of the double. Without love, without forgiveness, the story of Olson and Ferrini might have played out as a pair of hostile brothers. Instead Ferrini survives to write in "After Reading Creeley's Selected MAXIMUS:"for 25 years & more you are missed then your Peer stripped the pleroma & got the hearth breathing in a paper home & the reader's the poem of electrifying rhythms swept under the Ocean & on! that such a Mind found a generation for mounting Olympus! This is the Book of the Body who has room in any lover's head
There can be no doubt that in Gloucester Ferrini forms with Olson a Neoromantic beachhead against the New Puritanism of Eliot. There is something uniquely contrary to Eliot in Ferrini's love for his body.I don't dwell on who I am my self is a fiction so are my thoughts I love my body my body loves me leave Nature alone it is perfect just as it is Humanity is full of stories ("Song of the Secret")
Ferrini does not agonize over the inadequacy of language or the inflation of the self. Though always ready to swallow whole, he will "pick up" what he can, as in "Captain Janet:" "The Barque with all the Words/the Bible left out/Only at a bookstore/can you pick up/a Saint/for supper & extras." The Magi Image, with its root mission in mangn "to sing the magic song" seems an occult contradiction to Eliot's early poem "Journey of the Magi." Unlike Eliot, he comes to The Magi Image bearing neither academic nor modernist credentials. Rather he comes with a sharp tongue raised heavenward, prepared in simple measures for the song of the sacred Infant.Before Birth & after Death the Source in the knowing eye of the Infant & in the one who sees the Source in the Infant the Infant recognizes (from "Song of the Sacred")
The rhythms of Ferrini's art are spoken ones - emotional, impulsive, instinctual. Words are tones that call the sacerdotal arts into play. At eighty plus, he wants to know the ultimate truth about the place of the poem in the shadow of death. He is willing, with longevity, to mark the extended shadow of his own individuation in writing.the written Word is a style of Death the spoken is Life itself & between the two is the Mystery continually escaping ("Prologue and Epilogue")
Ferrini is a traditionalist with a deep trust in community and communication. He is a listener who demands listeners. He emphasizes the unity of life and art in "Wholly Holy Song:"is between the though & the action or a split is noise desire is radical or a limitation the random is all ways testing the human word love tongues & inflections because the Song is free everything alive & dead is with it
The radical organization of desire within the totality of song is his ultimate message in The Magi Image.
Librarian and Critic
© January 1997
Kenneth Warren is a librarian by profession. He edits House Organ, a letter of poetry and prose.
This review appeared in House Organ 17 and permission for reprint given by Kenneth Warren.
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