“Voice(s) across Space-Time”
A review by Joey Madia
Irish poet Michael McNamara’s latest collection packs into 35 pages a wealth of imagery in its visionary calls across the viscous, enigmatic ether of Space-Time. This ebook’s striking cover features dozens of bearded, wild-haired faces—similar, yet unique—held in a heartlike, streaming-ribbons shape, although one at the bottom breaks (or falls?) away in screaming fury.
Aspects, of, perhaps, of some other entity entirely, as you will see.
Like dialing in a radio from a far off station, the poems in This Transmission change voices, tones, periods, and perspectives in a cascade of crisp images and dire observations. The title poem puts the mysterious, myriad faces on the cover into context: “the Chinese, the Spanish Mexicans, the Native Americans, Siberians and Inuit” and extends the focus beyond the minority male, asking, “Was that Yoko, Cleopatra or The Magdalene?”: powerful, misunderstood, and misrepresented women all.
In the second poem, “From Prussia with Love” (mark the pop culture and art/literary riffs—they are everywhere embedded), the collection’s Voice gets stronger, declaring, “I’m your Alpha, your Omega.”
We’ve heard that one before.
But who is this declarer? In a later poem, the Voice says:
That’s me posing for Modigliani.
That’s me with Jacob Boehme.
That’s me behind The Maid of Orleans.
I am The Boer, The Troubadour, The Carthaginian, A Flower Girl, Soul Queen Of Harlem.
I stood with Alexander
Like the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones, the Voice declares:
I will steal another man’s face
and speak with my mouth his truth.
This enigmatic, energized Voice speaks much of war, of the monks who immolated themselves in protest of the Vietnam War and those who Crusade in the name of God. It speaks of the death of Rasputin (but not overtly), and of “births, deaths, and rebirths.”
This not-always-empowered Voice across Space-Time knows its Bible stories, claiming its title as the “last of The Great Magicians” and evoking the names of Samson and Delilah, Lazarus, and “the other Nazarite” (meaning the Voice was also from Nazareth?) while likening the whole set of sequences to a circus where he is but a clown in sackcloth, like an Old-New Testament Pagliacci as they hate it and laugh in derision.
Keeping on with the biblical theme, turning ever darker, comes this tercet from the poem “Ireland 2016”:
Incense and the blood of Christ’s dark antithesis is
the smell of stale cigar smoke and blood
on the toilet seat at the Catholic church.
Followed by references to Caravaggio and the Easter Rising. Then the Voice says, in the very wisest of wisdoms:
(We are clever people
handicapped by stupidity).
Though parenthetical, it is key.
Poems like “Before the Days,” all 10 lines of it, operate as ciphers as to whom the Voice might be.
An actor? Unquestionably. Both as a noun and as a verb—one who plays a role and one who is actively sending out… transmissions. But not an actor of high renown, of great success and celebrity, but “an aging actor soaked outside the faux theatre rain.” One who has known the very Ancient and is remarking upon the very modern: “They scribble false obits for the suicide”—Jeffrey Epstein? If I think it as the reader, Umberto Eco told us, it must be so.
In “Benighted Lightlessness,” the Ancient and Modern don’t so much collide as co-habitate, as they must in the Akashic Record, the Etheric Plane from which these Transmissions seem to come. Here we have “Pict, Jute, and Dane” and “The machine [that] holds neither malice/ nor compassion,/ no sense of power;/ it simply does.”
Just like the Voice… it matters not who “it” is or how or why it exists… because it simply does.
And by the end of the book, we are grateful for its effort.
AUTHOR: Michael McNamara
TITLE: This Transmission
PUBLISHER: Argotist Ebooks, 2019, https://www.argotistonline.co.uk