Alien Poems

Matthew Dickman

Jack Spicer believed the poems he wrote were sent through him by extraterrestrial beings. That is, he believed he was the vessel through which the news, heartbreak, strangeness, music, and the art of the “other” was carried.

I like this. I like to think about people’s creative mythologies. In an artist’s case, I don’t think the “myth” part of their existence is untrue. I believe Jack Spicer when he talks about aliens. And I believe we can see in some poets work a kind of otherworldly experience happening to them and then to us as readers. Of course, this is often translated in our academic and secular minds as purely “inventive” or “creative” imagination though there is something mysterious happening, something we can’t explain so we say: “How did he come up with that?” or “How does she write like that?”

Perhaps the “voices” from outer space that Spicer talked about are not so far from, well, outer space.

I had this kind of experience reading Andrea Rexilius’s book Half of What They Carried Flew Away (Letter Machine Editions, 2012). This book is like a lost journal in that you are not sure if the people being written about are from the distant past or the distant future:

“It was already happening, like the sun in this place, their lungs/ helped them to arrive”

Rexilius’s book is broken up into five sections, five “residence”: Desire, Water, Emanation, Weather, and Territory. Each residence is filled with beautiful prose and lyric poetry. This is a book that will not make an appearance on Prairie Home Companion or perhaps even Poetry Daily, though it should. The more I re-read Andrea’s book, the more open and strange I feel (a great thing to get from experiencing art), which leads me to believe the book is about the inner territories of the self, that strange, outer space world of our inner lives:

“What is it to embrace water?

Are you fearful near the edge or the middle?

Could you symbolize your idea of the self?”

What is it we are crossing over to in our lives? What is it that pushes and pulls at us? I think this book is digging into the world of those questions with an extraterrestrial shovel. Everyone should buy two copies: one for yourself and one for Garrison Keillor.