Here is social consciousness on an incantational vibration. Between the dangerous cracks in our infrastructure Colburn speaks to us with an understated yet authentic, earnest voice. Every line both enlightens and surprises. This collection will affect, reverberate, help one look toward the sky in the human heart.
The poems comprising unabandonment set vital fires in the blood of the mind, bones and soul–fires of desolation and beauty, of truth and lies, of life and death. The kindling for the poetic blaze is Colburn’s mastery of language, stripped to the radiance of what it needs to say and reveal. It is a book of timely illumination (“In the beginning was the word and it made us dance.”) and witness to a desperate world and quotidian manifestations of greed, cruelty, profit and mindlessness–a poetry welded by associative insights, rhythmic phrasing and imagery so cut, original and startling (“we performed an enduring radioactive embrace/for the approval/of the already dead future”), it melts the doors to the shielded self into the void of awareness.
unabandonment heartily invites us to cultivate attention to the heaving Now. Moving “from nothing toward nothing” through our Anthropocene “atrocity fatigue,” Colburn deftly observes what we’ve made here, “we the destroyers.” Our fierce attempts at adamantine Ego unfurl at the expense of each other: “we were safer/ the children/ needed to be in cages.” Hungry ghosts cannibalize any verdancy: “voices of future choirs/ sing to ghosts/ any billionaire is an emergency.” Colburn, ever expansive, encourages us to embody light, receive Sky-wide mind: “reader with your face shining down/ it must be that this light is writing us.” Compassion begets intimacy: “people in passing cabs/ appear lost/ here I gush with love for their faces.” Together, we learn to discern a counter to consumer culture : “we must buy the present/ continually/with our attention.” He begins this collection with a quote by Meera, and I can hear her incanting throughout: Get up, stop sleeping – the days of a life are short. Through our waking dream state, will we follow this Bard through billowing Bard-O?
"Leaking a little at a time from under their hearts ghosts don't buy anything," Colburn writes a prompt toward a love of forms, remedy for how one might stop so obsessively purchasing in the ghost's name. To right our relationship with our feelings will give this world a new page, that is. To admit the gamble of life as life moves us. ..."a wolf walks out" where "we were kissing and we were kissing good"... something new and real occurs. This is an emotional book. Emotions are sacred. Fear of the scaffolding of our own honesty is an outdated and censoring logic. We need an upgrade.
John Colburn is the author of three previous books: Invisible Daughter (firthFORTH Books, 2013), Psychedelic Norway (Coffee House Press, 2013), and dear corpse (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018), as well as four chapbooks of poetry. He lives in St. Paul, MN and is one of the publishers/editors in the Spout Press collective.