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Above All Things

Gary Blankenburg

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  • Paperback: 42 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.00" x 9.00"
  • ISBN: 978-1-938144-33-2
  • Publication Date: 2015-03-15
  • BrickHouse Books, Inc.

Availability: In stock

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Above All Things

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If you knew and loved Gary for being irreverent, sometimes raunchy, always sexy, a kind of bittersweet amalgam of Berryman, Bukowski, O’Hara, and of course his unique self, you will be interested but not at all disappointed to hear him as he looks Upward and prepares himself for, in his words, “The Great Perhaps.” And you may be amazed to discover that he is an extraordinarily talented visual artist. His work has all the pizazz of his poetry and the colorful eye of a visionary. His paintings make a joyful noise.

Gary Blankenburg

You're reviewing: Above All Things

Reviewed by Charles Rammelkamp

Facing the certainty of death and the uncertainty of God or an afterlife, Gary Blankenburg considers what, above all things, is important in this brief span of time granted to us before our ultimate extinction, in this first collection of poems he has published in a decade.  Now in his seventies, Blankenburg gives serious attention to the things that matter – above all things.  Those things, briefly, are the things that have always inspired him – love and nature.

Above All Things is composed of two sections, Natural Piety and Above All Things.  The first section title comes from the concluding lines of Wordsworth’s short poem, “My Heart Leaps Up.”  exploration yet still potent enough to inspire him to “embrace it/as I once embraced my teenage girlfriend.”  

The first four poems of this collection, in fact, fuse images of the heavens, the night sky, with the sublimity of love.  “Falling Star” reinforces this conflation in its final line, “Oh Love, what if you should ever fall from my heaven?”  We assume Blankenburg is addressing his wife, to whom this book is dedicated, but he is also addressing Love itself, which forms part of the natural piety.

But in the next poem, “Bleeding Heart,” the reality of existence, which preoccupies him throughout this collection –  life is old age, sickness and death (the first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, by the way) – comes crashing in.  As winter gives way to spring, he writes: “I think I want//to be in love again/with women/the way I am//forever head over heels/in love with nature./But, oh, I am//a foolish old man/longing for a young/man’s heart.” 

Thus, in the second part, Above All Things, which comes from a line from Saint Augustine, the Catholic theologian, Blankenburg grapples with faith, his lack of it, the uncertainty of anything beyond the natural world he so cherishes. 

Augustine says: “Let us love God above all things.”  Oh yeah?

This doubt is best captured in the poem entitled, “Magician”:

mage: Latin: to call forth

Oh great God
of Hocus Pocus,
work your magic
on me.
Cast a spell
to  transform me
from what I am
to should
and would be.
Oh, Zap me,
call forth 
your Abracadabra,
your Shazam
and – Presto –
infuse your
Divine Spirit
into me,
for I have tried
bread and wine,
smells and bells,
sacred water and oil
all to no avail.
Let doves
erupt and fly
forth from out
your sleeves –
heavenly angels
of mercy and grace.

Sometimes it seems as if Blankenburg writes with complete sincerity, not an ounce of the ironic, but at others…

Without meaning to sound too ironic, all I can say is, God bless Gary Blankenburg.

Gary Blankenburg

Septuagenarian Gary Blankenberg is a retired English teacher whose doctoral dissertation treated the confessional poets: Berryman, Lowell, Snodgrass, Plath, and Sexton. Blankenburg is the author of seven books of poetry and fiction and was a founding editor of The Maryland Poetry Review and Electric Press. Nowadays he reads Victorian novels and paints while gathering himself up for Eternity and a meeting with The Great Perhaps.