Cambridge Book Review

[Issue #8, Fall 2002]

Creature Comforts
By William L. M. H. Clark
The PinPrick Press

Reviewed by Karla Huston

Poet William Clark looks to literature and language and the everyday to create poetry. He gleans his poems from the ordinary as well as the classic, the uncommon as well as the mundane. In his book Creature Comforts, Clark's words play well with others -- several others, in fact -- from the mythical Prometheus to the classic adventurer Robinson Crusoe to the most monstrous of all, the creature formed by Dr. Frankenstein from the Mary Shelley story from so long ago. In fact, Clark names Frankenstein's creature Prometheus, a man condemned by the gods to suffer forever for having the nerve to challenge the status quo. Clark plunks these characters smack in the middle of pop culture, points out that they are all too human -- even by today's standards -- looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for acceptance in the most unexpected spaces: university campuses or the rock onto which Prometheus is chained or under the tree where those amputated body parts reside together, so that one lonely hand finally rests longingly on someone else's knee:
In a very special graveyard
for the limbs of amputees --
because (in life) they weren't allowed
such promiscuities --

now, tossed together, as it were,
the situation frees
each little finger, each great toe,
to go where (in life) it longed to go...

Clarks poems are often filled with wit -- that quality to perceive or know, especially in a humorous way, that which might have gone unnoticed. The poet considers Frankenstein's monster in a modern context, a man searching for a meaningful relationship in the most common and contemporary of places -- the classified ads where the Creature reports his interests as: "mountain climbing, dog sledding, walks in the woods, a glass of fine wine and romantic music." While into "light bondage," the creature seeks "electrifying encounters," and while "looks aren't important, a good brain is. Your picture gets mine." And isn't this wishful thinking by all of those who place these kinds of ads?

In addition, Clark's poems are filled with wild and crazy riffs of language. An outrageous penchant for the alliterative, Clark himself is perhaps the only one who can actually verbalize his tumbling clatter of "p" words in his poem "O Victor":
O puny prometheus,
O pusillanimous O paltry
O pompous polygenesist

for you no plaudits no paeans
no pleasant pentametrics
no palimpsest parentheticals

your pretentious parabiosis produced
no plausible prototype (though
potentially pentadactylic) it proffered.

Or in another poem where the Creature searches for a mate in a skin magazine using a veritable flood of "f" words to describe her as:
fascinating and fastidious and somewhat fastigiated;
fleshy but not fat -- a pulchritudinous playmate -- who

admittedly fissipalmate -- is, for all that, pretty much
faultless, but certainly not fault-finding though perhaps

a bit faustian yet not obfuscating, rather, favorably
forthright and, truth to tell, downright famously funny.

-- Words, which of course could describe all of us under similar circumstances, if we could pronounce them, that is, and a less vocally astute reader might find himself or herself tied up in verbal knots and Freudian slips of tongue. But not so with Clark. When he does alliteration, he makes the reader believe it, and s/he doesn't even have to know what these words mean to enjoy the rowdy and riotous ride of his line.

Finally, Clark has great fun exploring forbidden subjects, like those amputated body parts, "joined in the delicious arts beneath a sheltering tree," seeking each other for comfort. He suggests that Dr. Frankenstein might get into serious hot water by augmenting the monster's male appendage. The narrator considers how Crusoe might find sexual solace in the forbidden; how Dr. Frankenstein can't be satisfied and constantly fiddles, much to the fear and frustration of his creation, perhaps to expand his own shortcomings; how the Creature finds comfort in a blowup doll; how finally Prometheus comes to love his tormentor, the "angel-eagle." Clark's poems are inhabited by the wounded, yet not hopeless; even those penises lopped off from Greek and Roman statues still hope to be united and one day stand proud and tall.

Put aside your expectations of what poetry should be. You will enjoy these poems, their sense of humor and language and just plain fun.


Creature Comforts by William L. M. H. Clark is available from the PinPrick Press, a division of Frogmore Publications, 320 4th Street, Algoma, WI 54201.


Karla Huston has published poetry, fiction, and non-fiction in several state and national publications, including The Wisconsin Academy Review, The Wisconsin Review, Cimarron Review, Nightsun, The Comstock Review, Rattle, and others. She serves on the board of directors for the Fox Valley Writing Project and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

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