Rotary Devotion was written during a long period witnessing the collapse of democracy and the rise of fascism in the United States. The poems attempt to redeem time by surrendering to imagination, trusting the necessity of that process. As process, imagination changes as it transforms object and subject. The instability motivates the language within poems and between them. No persona is immune to this uncertainty, any attachment can be sacrificed. Likewise, any word might be summoned to the moment shaped by the grammar enough to cohere.
In this engagement, the guiding concerns are sensation of the world and how best to love, the former to stay oriented, the latter to justify the effort. Body engages world on behalf of imagination which regards the two with suspicion but interest. However reluctantly, the body lives in the world under constant threat, the sensation of uniqueness in the individual a consciousness of the collective body’s crisis as threat to its own survival. What is imagination’s responsibility? How can poems be made?
Writing poems, fixing words, is a kind of death the poems themselves consider. Imagination is the lively necessary. It moves through parts of the world and absorbs what nurtures it—the stubborn genius of homo erectus, remembered light in a photograph, music found and made, poem after poem considered, eternal weather, imagining history as it happens, what matters and what dies to other forms of matter.
These poems offer intimate companionship to the reader’s own voice, twin at times, antagonist at others, always a necessary and loving duet sharing genius and awe beyond personal identity which imagination knows as a barrier to love as much as an enticement. Irony is all the solace some poems offer, other times it allows a deeper vision of unity that begins where poems end.
Indebted to the great American tradition of Stevens and Ashbery, Gary Keenan’s profound and necessary poems are meditations on 'the solace of uncertainty' and 'the work of being born.' Out of 'the slow storm' of existence as 'tulips dry into paper flames,' they “start in pain and end in revelation.' Read them.
L. S. Asekoff