Vehicule Press / Signal Editions
The sonnets alone are worth the price of admission, but there’s another act in the show, an experiment in reverie delivered through complex syntax and sumptuous imagery. Allen published the first 60 sections of The Encantadas in The Magellanic Clouds (1998), the second 60 in Ricky Ricardo Suites (2000), and the final 57 appear in Standing Wave. Each section has three stanzas of three lines each. Allen’s introductory note attributes the triplet form to the influence of Wallace Stevens and A. R. Ammons. Devotees of Stevens will be reminded of the American poet’s The Comedian as the Letter C, a most eccentric story of a sea voyage, or his poem in three-line stanzas, “Sea Surface Full of Clouds,” where the long lines suggest ocean waves, a strategy that Allen also employs.
The Encantadas has a protagonist, Jack, an oceanographer who retreated to the Eastern Townships in part one of The Encantadas after suffering rapture of the deep. Jack has an extraordinary alter ego, Teddy, “the Antediluvian Vaudevillian,” a tap-dancing giant sea turtle from the Galápagos Islands (also known as the Encantadas, or Enchanted Islands) whose maritime adventures fill part II. Teddy’s adventures provide an analogue to Jack’s inner life. The story element in the concluding section, Jack’s voyage with smuggled wine from Corfu to England, is mostly a pretext for some exquisite reveries on love, the muse, and the sea. Jack becomes a modern version of Dionysius (in Allen’s spelling), who brought the cult of wine from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe. Like Dionysius, Jack traffics in visionary experience. The poem is eccentric, but Wallace Stevens suggested that sometimes we recognize that the eccentric is the base of design. Allen’s designs are filigrees worth tracing. mRb