Wu Wei
Tom Crawford
(Milkweed Editions)
Having lived some time in the northwest, we are used to coming across various writers, painters, poets, artists who live on some back creek, slough, river, hillside, or windswept beach --- Mukilteo, Tulalip, Conway, La Conner, Pt. Townsend, Kalama, Fern Hill, Ish River, Coos Bay, Columbia City, Deer Island --- off there somewhere, away from the noise and stink of the cities.

Their words and art often have a mist rising up over the dark and quick and changeable waters. There is usually a hint of the East: the Tao, the Four Noble Truths, the Master, meditation, mindless mindfulness.

Mixed with the dhyana and hinayana are grebes and loons and Indian fishermen and oyster shells and the wind sifting in from the chill outside and the woe that sometimes lies at the heart of us: time passing, the dying fall, and you and I never exactly knowing what It Means, much less knowing what is to befall us, what befell us back before we knew or thought we knew what we were when we were back then.

Such is it with Tom Crawford in Wu Wei. His poetic meditations are the Northwest and the sun come up or gone down and gill nets and dogs and trailers (and dogs in trailers) and stupas and the Williamette (he's from Oregon) and the Divine Space (where there is no space).

It's the East in spades: men packing "pig's faces," extra-terrestrial activities ("I was some kind of car/backing out of my body") and the I Ching and a series of very charming (and funny) poems from his previous life when he lived in China ("China is toothless/and retired in Ciqikou.")

Our definition of good poetry is that it's like Fritos: you can't just eat one, you want more (and even, maybe, you want to go to China to see what he saw).

That's what we have here, and praises to Tom Crawford (and Milkweed) for giving this to us: those unforgettable notes on ageing, looking worn, wet and worn out,

    I know what I must look like right now
    standing in front of Morrison Books
    on 12th and Hoyt, unemployed, no hat on, rain-dripping
    off my chin, the back of my head, but I don't mind...
--- Patricia Kim
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