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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Long Grass Books no. 5, Corey Mesler

Some Identity Problems

Corey Mesler is a penpal of mine—met in the e-aether some time after he reviewed a book of mine for the Memphis Commercial Appeal—and so I want to pay some notice to the fact that he has published that most-ignored thing, a book of poems. FootHills Publishing has stitched up Some Identity Problems as an attractive book, generous in its profusion of poems.

You will never meet this amusing, charming poet and novelist on tour because he is agoraphobic and stays home in Memphis, but you can meet the joy, whimsy, love, anxiety, and contradiction in his poems. Many of these poems are modest in scale but have reach. As a whole they are kaleidoscopic—swerving from low to high in diction, playful, belated in feeling or elated, revealing a persona that struggles to find a center, meaning, worldview. He frolics in the realm of the absurd, then evinces a heart of ripped-open sincerity. He bumps from sacred to profane, leaping from monkey to man to deity. His favorite tropes involve repetition and variations on it, startling metaphor, and the yoking of opposites—a Barcalounger linked to mythic depths.

If you wish to buy a copy, the ideal place to buy is from the bookstore that Corey and his wife Cheryl run in Memphis—Burke’s Book Store, the oldest bookstore in Memphis, founded in 1875. That’s what I’m doing because I can support the book of poetry and bookstore at once. Mine is beautifully signed, so be sure and ask for an inscription!

If you'd like to ask Corey a question here, feel free!
I'll roust him for an answer.


The red book we keep high on a shelf
where children can’t reach.
The blue book is for those who won’t
read anything else. The black
book is where I write everything down,
the names of the children,
the reasons we keep the books, and the
way out, if that becomes necessary.


I will paint the paper sky
with pinpoints of light,
put a smile on the
waif-like moon.
I will walk with you onto
the sunbeams
that color our porch like
a prism exploding.
And, in the end, if the
wayward universe
will not bend to our every
wish, I will filibuster
god to give you all the
comforts of home,
on this rickety planet, even
as she speeds through
space on a collision course
with eternal profusion.


“A lonely moon is mirrored in the cold pool.
Down in the pool there is not really a moon…”

By remote water I have sat
thinking of this and that
and speaking names into
the water, as if there I would
receive back echo. Those
who no longer are near,
those who no longer care,
all those who took me into
themselves and then moved on,
I talk to the river about them.
The river itself is never still,
but it answers something in me
which is deep and almost beyond
recollection. It answers that those
names are now made of silence.

Yet another addition, October 30th: I took a peek at Corey's publisher, and feel that I have been remiss in neglecting to mention how interesting and industrious they appear. Poet and publisher Michael Czarnecki writes of the small company that "FootHills Publishing was formed in 1986 for the purpose of getting into print the words of poets who found it hard to get their work out to the public other than at readings or in the occasional magazine. The first few books were published in conjunction with Great Elm Press, operated by Walt Franklin. Since then, FootHills Publishing has released more than 250 chapbooks or books." The company has all the virtues and determination of a cottage industry: "I do the editorial work - Carolyn handles the book production and shipping and our two boys, Grayson (16) and Chapin (12), help with production. Grayson also assists with some design work. All of our books are now hand-stitched and we have received many compliments on the quality of the work, both in content and production." The picture of Corey's book below doesn't show the stitching, but it's quite evident and attractive when one sees a copy, as is the good quality of the materials. I looked them up and see that they are just barely west of the finger lakes, and probably got as much snow as we did yesterday...


  1. "all those who took me into
    themselves and then moved on"

    This would be a great coffee discussion statement.

    very interesting indeed! I liked reading his poetry out loud.

    He should youtube Bill Calahan aka Smog live performance of River Gaurd, I bet he would like it.

  2. Hello, Miss Hat--

    You can google him and find a good many more of his poems.

  3. You were right, I do love these poems. I'm going back to reread them then google, I think.

    (I'm currently collecting interesting comment verification words, as they seem to be going through a phase of being quite pronouncable and even sometimes being real words. The current one is 'ingand', which sounds a bit like where I'm from!)

  4. I especially liked the last one. Lovely.

  5. Lucy,

    Oh, good--I somehow thought it might be a match! You'll find a lot of Mesler poems sprinkled around the web, too.

    On the v.w. front, one of my words today was "comica." This one is "heaunc," which at first glance recalls "heaven" and at second seems a bit Anglo-Saxon.


    Glad you liked them. Yes, the last has a certain limpid quality suited to the poem.


    Apropos of nothing, today was our first school "snow day" of the year. October 29. Not too bad. The earliest snowstorm I remember here was October 15th, the latest, May 25th. I shall never make a proper Northerner,though new snow is always lovely.

  6. 'Some Identity Problems' is a deft and phantasmal read, and I'd recommend his many other works, as well. There's this guy in there, in every line; you can feel him in there while you read... a warm but cagey guy, or a generous yet powerful guy.

    'The Hole in Sleep' is another excellent collection, and hits you in a wondrous way. I've read it more than a few times.

    Mesler's ability to shimmy between myth with philosophical overtones and domesticity with a smart playfulness is mesmerizing.

    I will hereafter call it 'Meslerizing'.

  7. Hi Ray--

    Thanks for leaving such a smart and informative comment about the inimitable Resolem Crey. I like Meslerizing--a sort of metaphysical yet household tenderizing.

  8. p. s. I'll drift by and see what you've been doing since "Hymenoptera" when it's not a dratted school snow day...

  9. Lovely!
    First one: ominous
    second one: whimsical
    third one: poignant.

    All sorts of expressions of mood - very rich.

    I was just wondering if Corey Mesler has a favourite writing mood.

  10. Favorite writing mood? Hmm, I would say clear-headed, a rare enough occurrence. Sometimes I write mad, sometimes I write sad, sometimes I write like a cad. But clear-headed, yes, that's a special day. Wait, is that a mood?

  11. Cool Corey.
    hope that's not too trite.
    Language, like his in these poems, strengthens my faith in the depth of spirit that wafts about us. And yes, alas, too often unpublished.

  12. Glad to see that people have been stopping by and leaving Corey a note--for every note, there are always many more floating by--and hope that all of you will spread the word. Small press and poetry both need all the word of mouth they can get. And remember, often a poet's subsequent books depend on decent sales of the first.

  13. Dear Marly - Thanks for sharing this fine poet with us. And Corey thanks for writing. We need poets like you who speak in breaths that hold the mythic and the real as a tuning fork for our souls. I'd love to see some poems for Oyster Boy Review. We've just started republishing after a four year hiatus - and won't be reading for at least a year while we catch up on all the poets whose work we had to send back. But 10-12 months from now send me some poems. And if you want to send a review copy of your book, go ahead and do so. Contact info for me is on Oyster Boy's web page. All best!

  14. Hi there, Jeffery--

    Hurrah for the return of "Oyster Boy"!

    I'm glad you liked these.

  15. Marly, all's well! And I've emailed you.

    This is a lovely introduction. Thanks, Marly. And thank you, Corey!

    Lucy's right:
    word verification: iidles
    definition: times spent reading idylls

  16. mb,

    Perhaps I'll be doing an mb-book-post some day...

  17. Yes, I enjoyed them, and I will read them again; it is always good to hear what someone has to say or illustrate. We are close but stand on different soil with a different language and view, and then again, I wonder if it is just my lack of understanding. The waif like moon and the rickety earth (planet) particularly made me think. It is not just his identity but the river’s I think! He certainly got my grey cells out of bed this morning!

    Sorry I am always so late on the scene Marley, how’s the Palace these days? Have you got snow yet?

  18. Hi Robert,

    Glad Corey rocked you awake before you headed off to the studio!

    Around six inches last Tuesday... I heard that some places nearby got eighteen. And some don't have power yet.

    No worry about being late--it's poetry, not the daily news!

  19. An intriguing crowd. I'm afraid all that stuff about verification words went straight over my head at first, and then I realized what you were talking about. Are those indeed real words rather than strings of random letters? I suppose I must get out my OED!
    Hello Robert. I think I injured your feelings on my blog. Please excuse me if I did, and pay me a visit there again.
    Must be nice to get some snow, though of course, in my parts, it is still balmy, even in the beginning of November.
    I wore my Day of the Dead yoga tights in honor of the day though yesterday.
    I will look up the press and Oyster Boy. I can always use some good reads and new place to publish.

  20. Yes, an intriguing bunch...

    And no, it is not nice to get snow in October!

    The v-w words are a test of the human being's insatiable desire to make meaning out of letters.

  21. just popping in to see if you had a Veterans Day tribute up. YOu do great tributes.

    kiddies out for holiday? gues that means you are the ferryman this week.

  22. I ought to... I was just telling my youngest about my father, the teenage tailgunner, who joined the Army Air Corps at 17. He used to do a backward somersault out of the tail.

    But think I will hold fast to staying off until the 22nd because I am overrun. School is out, play starts Thursday, in-laws are arriving, husband is flitting to and from Montana, and more.

    I am the perennial ferrywoman. Like Charon, only a lot more life and fun!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.