Un Poco Loco
Un Poco Loco is the companion volume to Lyons’ previous collection Fleur Carnivore that won the 2005 Washington Prize from Word Works, Washington, D.C. This volume, though allusive, takes as its central metaphor the story of Jacob wrestling the angel. To do this, the volume enlists the company of a host of co-conspirators: visual artists like Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, entertainers like Lenny Bruce and the Marx Brothers as well as writers like Cesare Pavese and Frank O’Hara. The conspiracy participates in the battle against intolerance and war often fueled by perverse myths of gender and race division. This volume also discovers at the heart of its demotic purpose the two-headed beast of pride and desire.
Praise for Un Poco Loco
Richard Lyons’ Un Poco Loco is a collection of wide zigzagging solos through the circumstances of a life that will not settle for posturing or dull poetry-by-numbers or easy answers. His poems to jazz exemplars do not bestow stupefying honorific appreciation: they move. I believe Lyons to be one of our most powerful poets of lament: improvised into weird, existential, ecstatic, full throated protests against the unfelt past and an unfeeling present.
The most important thing I look for in a musician, said Duke Ellington, is whether he knows how to listen. Richard Lyons listens with his memory and his eyes, with all his heart and with every word to what we might mistakenly think of as small or bygone things. He sorrows and joys in the passing glimpse and in our changing mortal perceptions, blackbirds that "fall / like black handkerchiefs," a neighbor's outdoor mobile of rusty forks and spoons, time lost and gone, the one-time horn and piano riffs costing both artist and audience so dearly all bets are off except to go forward, to start from scratch, to cherish, to live. This is truly a heartening, irresistible poetry.
Putting order onto what seethes is one of the gifts of Un Poco Loco, a vibrant collection taking on the difficulties of “honesty/twisted with art.” Lyons honors the vastness and specificity of the arts, particularly music; often his poems’ syllables splay and puncture like jazz notes, some long, some staccato, some that slam, others that retreat so that the reader is in a sort of unpredictable poetry boat, listening and reading, being carried off to the unexpected. How this poet treats aging, memory’s anecdotes, guilt, yearning and life’s unexpected beauty is simultaneously harsh and tender. “Now that I am older/forever is a morning song.” And so forever clarifies how its arc falls backward (as we may understand it) and forward (as we hope we’ll understand it.) Un Poco Loco is full of poems that offer so much at once the mind smiles in gratitude.
Richard Lyons’ poems are full of ontological longing, chronicling our harried passage through quotidian existence while remaining open to moments of unexpected grace. Un Poco Loco is a harrowing but also profoundly encouraging experience, with Lyons voicing feelings I realize are mine only by his articulating them. This is a stunning collection from a major poet.—Robert Olen Butler