The darkness of the world often makes me want to howl at the moon. Starving children in Haiti. A woman whose life has been shattered by rape. A man bleeding on the side of the road. The list of injustice and suffering goes on and on. All of the hurt sometimes seems too much to handle.
But every now and then, something comes along to shatter the darkness. A voice of humanity, one that says, hell yeah, it can be dark, but I’ve got to keep going. That’s what the poetry of Christopher Cunningham means to me.
I’ve been a fan of Christopher Cunningham’s work for quite a while now. He’s certainly not a newcomer and has had several publications, including Screaming in Some Beauty, Flowers in the Shadow of the Storm, Thru the Heart of This Animal Life, A Measure of Impossible Humor, and many more.
In A SOUND TO DRIVE AWAY THE COMING DARKNESS, Cunningham once again displays a mastery of language with clean, smooth lines. Yet each line is lyrical, each verse is a beautiful song unto itself. Already, I have dog eared the book from reading it so many times.
The poems in this book are not “starry eyed,” nor do they deny the darkness. In his poem outsiders, the dog is behind a fence on a short leash in a cold rain.
“there is no help
of the deluge.”
But I love the fact that the dog does not whimper. He does not curl up and die. The dog’s lungs are strong. Even when he battles the wind and the thunder and no one hears, he does not stop. And as the powerful ending of the poem tells us,
when the lightning
I will never forget the image of that shining chain in the darkness.
The poems in this book realistically portray the darkness, the human search for answers, the human quest to find the light. In looking for meaning where there is none, the sun is
“an ugly tumor
Yet the narrator is alive.
Cunningham’s poem, the capacity to be stunned by grace, reveals to the reader the sound that will drive away the coming darkness. Laughter! Who could not love that? Who could not love a poet who has the capacity to laugh when peering into the barrel of the loaded darkness?
Cunningham’s sense of humor can also be seen in poems like the salad is too damn wet. We can all relate to those disappointments of life, and the human reaction:
“we want the best,
we want the topnotch,
we want the giddiness,
we want the joy.
and we are almost certain
and then it does.”
Still, we eat the soggy salad anyway. Because that is what we must do.
I cannot help but think of one of the most powerful scenes in western literature when I read this book–the final scene from The Grapes of Wrath. Even when the water is rising and all is lost, there is the struggle to survive. The small ones do not give up. In Cunningham’s world, a homeless Vietnam vet makes choppers out of discarded soda cans. A murder of crows rises up through the gloom like a black sun. There is hope. There is life.
I could write an essay about each one of the wonderful poems in this book. However, I should let you check it out for yourself. A SOUND TO DRIVE AWAY THE COMING DARKNESS can be purchased at alt-current.com for ($6 + $2 shipping in US, $3 shipping outside of US) by clicking HERE.
You can also send cash, check, or money order (made out to Alternating Current) to:
Alternating Current PO Box 398058, Cambridge MA 02139 USA, or Paypal the complete amount to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also check out Christopher’s work at Guerilla Poetics Project.
A SOUND TO DRIVE AWAY THE COMING DARKNESS is well worth the low price. I tip my hat to you, Christopher Cunningham. Your words have been a great light during some of my darkest days.