A Word About The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics from David R. Altman
– The full text of this foreword is found in The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics (Reissue Date: 2017)
Cliff writes in “The Soma of a Fevered Condition” “…night needs no introduction as I adore everything after midnight.”
It is this passion—unpredictable, rich, contagious– that will draw you into the tender poems in the Draw of Broken Eyes, poems that not only reflect his childhood and young adult years—but the lessons they have taught him.
You will experience the loss of love “you are the catalyst and the razor, the haunting I can’t remember”, the pain of regret–“a road has stolen her closeness to me, the door is flung open with nothing outside but a humid afternoon” and the longing for redemption, where Brooks writes “reminding a sinner home is home, even alone.”
Like Don Henley’s Desperado, Cliff’s life has been filled with many opportunities, though often times it seems he has only wanted those things he could not have.
So, did this whirling-dervish of a Renaissance man finally find his redemption? You’ll have to decide for yourself—but the journey in The Draw of Broken Eyes is not to be missed.
And then there is Whirling Metaphysics, the second book in this two-part collection.
In what Cliff says is a sort of re-creation of his days working with the Department of Juvenile Justice in rural northwest Georgia, these poems will sting you with their honesty and shock you with their insight.
David R. Altman is the Books & Writers Editor of the Pickens County (Ga.) Progress. He was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in 2015 for his poetry chapbook “Death in the Foyer”, and has written for several publications including the Athens Banner-Herald, the Gwinnett Daily Post and Georgia Outdoor News. He is also the editor of georgiabigsticks.com—a blog about tournament bass fishing.
A Word About Athena Departs from James H. Duncan
– The full text of this foreword is found in Athena Departs: The Gospel of A Man Apart (Release Date: 2017)
If there’s one thing I can always count on, it’s that Clifford Brooks carries the fire. There’s a manic passion in his work, and from what I’ve seen of him over the years, you’ll find the same in his life, his every day a pool of gasoline waiting for the match, and it’s hard not to feel that flame catch on and spread into my own life whenever I read his poetry or speak or write with him. His intensity for the work that goes into writing and promoting the work of others, and his dogged determination for poetic perfection even while knowing perfection is unobtainable is inspiring for those of us who know his work well, and I hope you’ll take the time to read this book and enter that ring of fire.
With Athena Departs, we have another collection born of that endless struggle, where Brooks puts into words what life has put into him—the roadblocks and majesties, the miracles and knock-out punches, all elevated to a plane where his poems seem to sing, each a choir preaching idealism and fire with a cadence that’s playful yet rich with purpose, as in his poem “In Athens the Affair is Elysium”:
The incendiary acceptance of obsession makes us unconscious of everything
except carnal screams. We are not dreams. We are not akin to sin.
His wordplay dances on the page and imbues the reality of love and passion with an arcane decadence, an obsession realized with any shame. Poem after poem Brooks champions this kind of passion, this kind of life, and as you progress through the collection you realize Clifford Brooks is building a mythology.
– James H Duncan is the founding editor of Hobo Camp Review, a former editor with Writer’s Digest, and is the author of such poetry collections as Dead City Jazz, Berlin, and Dealing With the Devil in the Middle of the Road, as well as two short story collections, his most recent being What Lies In Wait.
“Clifford Brooks has the rare gift of combining a lyric intensity and a grounded honesty in his poetry, one that reflects an amplified, passionate, and giving soul, but one that understands, very well, the suffering that sculpts a genuine heart. These poems thrum with a wit and an extemporaneous spirit, but–most importantly–they reveal a poet who constantly contemplates his art, the people whom he loves, and a world equally benefic and malefic. In these poems–whether narrative or lyric, minimal or dithyrambic, Brooks knows human passion, how it must suffuse any art worth making.”
–William Wright, author of Tree Heresies and 2015 Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry
“Clifford Brooks writes a passionate, eloquent poetry, as wide-ranging as the models he sometimes invokes, including the blues and the epics.”
ROBERT PINSKY, former Poet Laureate of the United States
In Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, Clifford Brooks tells us early on, “I reflect on the reasons / life refused to let me go.” But his expansive poems are more than reflections, so much more. Brooks creates in his work places where the blues and philosophy both sing their songs of modern doubt and love, where downtown Athens, Georgia, can be home to Damon and Pythias but still have “Jackson’s secondhand bookshop” with “collections written by Rilke, Neruda, and Simic,” and where Granny and Dad and church and Grandfather and Momma share the world with Ovid and Odysseus, Penelope and Cupid and Old Man Scratch, Medusa and Thanatos and the Underworld.”
“We shall always be suspicious things to a species stuck in neutral,” writes Clifford Brooks in his oracular collection, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart. Brooks poems accelerate on the page with lyric beauty, allusions, raw honey sweetness, country boy renaissance snap, through demonizing tunnels to expose nihilism, love, faith, and our broken down lives. But he reminds us of our strength along the way, “We flourish best in unforgiving weather.” His poems hum with a haunting “melody” and impact with the emotional whirlwind of, “a natural catastrophe.” The centerline on Brooks’ road, may indeed be the “creator’s urgency to be happy, or be nothing”. These poems careen with wild inventiveness; steer us straight into “blades that slice away.” Scream to this poet, “Drive me.”
“Spare, lean, swift, with energy to burn, Clifford Brooks’ verse is knit together with an Anglo-Saxon flare for alliteration. He coins a mint of unforgettable phrases, like “a murder of unwed women.” This tale of a vagabond life is equal parts unsparing honesty and just plain fun.”
There are storytellers, and there are stories. Occasionally, we find no distinction between them. This is the case with Clifford Brooks.
In his new collection, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, the narrative often becomes the narrator, and whatever lines we assign between teller and told become irrelevant. In this sense, these poems function the way mythology does—they offer us a way inward so that we can more easily navigate a way back out. The reverse is also true in that Brooks asserts our collective humanness while also praising our divine individuality.
There are tender moments in these poems that speak to travel between generations and masculine duty: I quote Don Quixote,/and Dad whispers,/Amen./We share no guilt,/nor position to defend. In other spaces we are reminded of necessary, intentional wounding that comes from letting go of our expectations to be seen: Disaster does not ease into a quiet evening/to help meek men /maintain weak excuses./Nostalgia is a narcotic/not worth a nickel./If you’re on the market/for a makeshift miracle,/never sit for a meal/with a holy man… /…unless he has a dark history.
Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart is sexy in its ferocity and music, its insistence that we slow down and pay close attention to why we write our own myths, and how these will be carried close to the heart, or tossed dangerously into some storm. Brooks asks much of us in these new poems and he offers us his oaths, too. This is not a soft book, nor a safe one. Brooks does not once ask us to let go—rather, he invites us to settle in for long nights in the Southern stick and wet, where we might look up– and consider Olympus not so far after all.
-Kelli Allen, author of Imagine Not Drowning (2017), How We Disappear (2016), Some Animals (2016), and Otherwise, Soft White Ash (2012)
Clifford Brooks’s Athena Departs is tornadic, both in its dizzying whirl of settings, images, and motifs and in its sheer elemental energy. In this book, love swirls around disdain, defiance swirls around regret, the mythic swirls around the mundane. We are picked up in Athens, Georgia and set down in Athens, Greece. The speaker is one moment a content man taking in a simple pleasure and then a tortured soul incapable of finding peace. He’s a barroom denizen, then Orpheus, then Samson, then Doc Holliday. It’s been said that we can never truly judge the merit of poetry in our own time, but can only determine whether it is genuine, whether it is authentic. If that is the case, then I can be certain in my judgment: This work is purely genuine, wholly authentic. There is nothing faked here, nothing pretended to. Athena Departs is poetry fully meant by its creator, delivered with the force of a whirlwind.
—Dan Albergotti, author of Millennial Teeth
To be cast out of Eden, to be an exile, unwanted by the world one desires, according to each person’s personal doctrine may or may not mean being cast out of the Promised Land, but for Clifford Brooks, it is a journey of a man steeped in the conflicts of internal struggle. For Brooks, even though he has been tossed from Eden, “There is nothing new/regarding redemption. . .” and he must find his way in a world where everyone is cast into judgment. It is though his declaration that “I will not be judged” that he begins to free himself. Perhaps no judgment will come from a higher power, but Brooks will be judged for his poetics, which is that of a man at odds with the world of numerous interior battles. As John Huston said toward the end of filming Wise Blood, “Jesus wins.” Similarly, in the end, Clifford Brooks wins, as well as the reader for being led on such an exhilarating sojourn.
Brooks is as energetic and creative a talent as I have seen in many years, with an untamed nature, a wild zest for poetry and life, with an imagination that reminds me of Frank Stanford’s “The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You,” “The Light the Dead See,” and “The Snake Doctors.” Rarely have I found a poet with as much passion as Clifford Brooks. Dramatic and elusive, Brooks’ poetry digs deep into the personal and swirls around in the mind, then returns with the insight of a philosopher: “Forty years ago I fell from oblivion/and found myself the first son/of a song without a sound. . . .// I am half mad and haunted.” He is haunted, as in “Memoir of a Madman” where “Beneath acne scars,” the speaker “barely” dodged “prison bars. . . .” All of this is backdrop for the “spell of a slide guitar” and “the molten marrow/of a man.” Images and sounds like these lead the reader into Brooks being “jacked up” on Robert Johnson and his “love/of brown liquor.”
When reading Brooks’ poetry, I keep returning to this idea of what it means to be cast out, to be unwanted in the world by parents, friends, lovers, siblings, editors, the world at large, and how people wander the world singularly, to be always searching for a home where one can arrive openly, to return to the Eden each of us has lost, and how each of us is on a solitary journey back to that home. As we make that sojourn, we have encounters with people and experiences—some are friendships [removed comma] while others are sexual, some are fleeting while others are long-lasting. Yet, regardless of those relationships, we must make that final journey back to Eden alone. Each of us is an exile from Eden, and Clifford Brooks understands this idea more than most. What you will find in this collection of poems is a poetic compass, a road map of sorts, linking Exiles of Eden to his full-length collection Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart—a remarkable book in its own right—and the journey that he undertook. As a reader, it is a ship very much worth boarding.
—William Walsh, from his introduction to Exiles of Eden