THIS WASTED LAND
And Its Chymical Illuminations
reviewed by the Midwest Book Review
By the middle of the second of this poem's 902 lines, we've already been guests at The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, pondered Einstein's "stubborn illusion of tenseful time," been tickled by Cassius Dio's tale of not-so-virginal vestals, and eavesdropped on Adam's marital difficulties with his first wife, Lilith.
By the end of the fifth line, we have visited Gaza under the Roman Empire and watched Chinese fabrics from the Silk Road being picked apart and rewoven into translucent garments of gauze for the exhibitionist pathics of the Palatine Hill. We've heard Myrna Loy's evocation of similar nightdresses, draped about fluttering virgins. We've relived Bobby Kennedy's assassination and heard him plagiarize George Bernard Shaw. And we've helped a seventeenth-century alchemist discover phosphorous with the help of 5000 liters of human urine.
By the seventeenth line--which has taken us no further than the bottom of this book's first page--King Solomon has appeared. He has brought along with him Athanasius of Alexandria, Ephrem of Syria, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Cagliostro, Byron, Madame Blavatsky, Whitman, Aleister Crowley and Orwell.
And so it's time to turn the page for the first of 242 times...