Book Review


Journey to the Sun, front cover


Poetry by Brent Cunningham
Atelos, January 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1891190353
Paperback: 120pp; $13.50

Reviewed by Trena Machado:

In JOURNEY TO THE SUN, the author tells of his travels at age thirteen to the “Source of All Life.” The book is difficult to categorize, no ready vessel of satire, political tract, manifesto, spoof, spoken word will corral it, but there is shouting, exuberance, spontaneity of energetic discovery in short narrative phrases: OK!, alight!, alight!, Gold & Heat & Progress for all! 4x4x4!, you are not the FIRST!, you are not even the TRILLIONTH!, this is AMERICA !, Double Slash Zero!—the human VOICE is heard in this writing. The book begins with an Invocation:

… Love
to mention you first

no other power could have
made me this consistent
it’s clear you make
a lot of things happen
the plants flower
& the rains rain

Then, in the first three pages, the journey has been made to the sun and back:

I saw, I lived, I came back
desperate to hold
my green green land
to run to its lakes
& cry at nothing


A thirteen year old, one foot in childhood, one foot into the adult, the cusp that we will always remember, the knowing that we know, and from there we are on our journey, the sun, source of life out there, the sun, the self within, both far, far away. There are years of observing, hunting and missteps in between until we speak to our self:

so, yes, now I could see
both where I was going
& what I had to do
(to the SUN!)
& No-one had ever told me

Cunningham’s repeated use of being guided from within, “you KNOW because you know—” points at the innate capacity of self-knowledge making choices and keeping in touch of knowing that we know. We evolved out of onslaught:

that we have learned & fought
& built glass residencies
& out-smarted apes & pufferfish
comets & draughts & killer bees
& meanwhile endured the snows
of five tri-million winters

Then, a continuation on to today of a harsh commercial and political culture:

first that our minds
must abridge & sum
& in doing so CRUSH
all delicates & weirdos
up to one trillion exclusions
or, no, 40 trillion
or, no, 40 trillinium
in even the barest spot

The voice of the poet calls us to recognize the poet within, “each soul having & hearing.” The underpinning of our civilization is out on the thin limb of rationality. Logic breaks apart on the reef of definition and cannot help us: “If we define ‘things’ as whatever things sound can travel through, then light cannot be a thing./But it must be a thing, since it can’t be a quality./There is a deep problem in our idea of things and qualities.” Nor is there a solution. Cunningham ends with the journey “is” the journey, the poets and “idiotes,” those willing to take the risk and know they know “& cry at nothing”: “besides/it only WORKS/in Poetry/& not even that/reliably.” The solo ego reaches maturity with being able to connect with earth, “Every-thing we needed/was back
there—”. The LOUD language, enthusiastic for life, not merely residing on the page, lets us feel the journey. A poet is the one who communicates about our inner voice that knows it knows: our one real thing.

Postscript: worthy of note, the book cover’s design, front and back, the non-mechanical contraption of geometry, powered by crystal clusters, housing numbers, shapes, a few escaping loose arcs carrying a tiny human figure towards the sun, the Source of Every-thing.

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