By Brian Teare
In a series of apocalyptic chants that attempt to thread the universal with the particular through the eye of mortality, Brian Teare becomes an anti-Walt Whitman; a poet acknowledging the desire to contain multitudes while keenly aware of the degree of difficulty in the attempt. He also recognizes, more practically, the havoc that human ambition can wreak upon the rest of creation.
Teare does show a reluctance to make simplistic thematic linkages. While maintaining, during a hike/meditation in the title poem, that he is “not/supposed to posit/an analogy/between the river/& [his] body”, he still feels the currents flow through him, and can’t help but conclude that they are “related/on a molecular/level so intimate”.
The imagery in the book consistently reinforces that relationship. Teare, perched on the edge of a pond, observes “an elk [that] steps/forward from the sedge :: it steps/into the image/of an elk who steps forward/from the sedge & bends its head/to drink from my mouth”.
On the darker side, Teare links illness, including his own subjective condition, with a vulnerability apparent in the objective world. When he is diagnosed by a rheumatologist (somewhat ambiguously) as potentially having just limited “years/of mobility left/if [he’s] careful” the diagnosis is echoed in Teare’s catalogue of oil spills, chemical leaks and deforestation that have potentially limited the years of humanity’s mobility in its native habitat.
Teare also shares Whitman’s poetic stamina. In an age of bite-sized lyrics, Doomstead Days is made up of epic, if fractured, verse that, at its most straightforward, is a condensed elegy for a world facing environmental devastation, and whose mode mimics a slowly growing panic over the consequences. His long sentences are hacked up into short-syllabled and truncated verses, rather than unwinding in more prosey, Whitmanesque lines. They don’t build momentum so much as pile up an overwhelming load of imagery – an unsubtle mimicking of how our species has an obsessive drive to imprint itself literally and metaphysically all over the planet.
Such a poetic scope and execution is challenging. But it invites repeated returns, especially once you find your way into the jagged, unrelenting rhythm and Teare’s pessimistic but gripping vision of the “Doomstead” we have built for ourselves to inhabit.
Move in here.