The Ancient Use of Stone by Ray DiPalma, Seismicity Editions, 2009. (Distributed by SPD)
While contemporary poets and critics opine and debate about whether or not originality is still possible, contemporary poet Ray DiPalma has been quietly at work on a project for 10 years that demonstrates that not only is creativity and originality by poets alive and well, but Otis Books/Seismicity Editions has presented The Ancient Use of Stone, DiPalma’s superb new book, subtitled Journals and Daybooks 1998-2008, in a form that defies comparison with any other book of new writing for sheer visual and typographical beauty. The book includes six separate journals, all considerably varied in their approaches, and arranged in chronological order: The Ancient Use of Stone (1998), Jihadgraphy (2002), An August Daybook (2005), Mules at the Wake (2006), Ascoso (2006) and Salt in the Rock (2008), 213 pages in all, published in an ample 8" by 10" softcover format. Two of the sections contain considerable visual work. In addition to writings both Jihadgraphy and An August Daybook include DiPalma's graphically complex and frequently witty collages throughout. Jihadgraphy, a 43 page long journal, was written in a succession of 3 juxtaposed vertical entries per page. It has a series of collages running down the right hand side of all the pages in 2" by 8" columns. These have a cinematic and iconographic quality, while the text reflects on DiPalma’s life and literary concerns, including poems and comments on the piece itself as it emerges. DiPalma writes in the opening lines of Ascoso [Hermetic Anonymity], the sixth piece in the book: “There is nothing here to be measured—/simply take your share. Pensa, lettor”. As DiPalma explained to me recently, this means, “reader, give this some thought”; and this is then balanced in turn by the words a few lines later: “Prenda, lettor”—“reader, take this occasion in hand.” Both invitations are essentially derived from DiPalma’s reading of Dante. Collected here are opportunities I am sure many present readers as well as readers to come will avail themselves of with great pleasure as they delve into DiPalma’s generous and masterful The Ancient Use of Stone.