Radomir Luza: From the Crowded Chaos of His Closet

Eros of AngelsRadomir Vojtech Luza has a new collection out and it’s called Eros of Angels. A few months ago I was pleased to be present at the launch of this book, which is a big one: nearly four hundred pages and well over three hundred poems. Radomir writes like the Patron Saint of L.A. Poets, Charles Bukowski, who often wrote several poems a night while he drank beer. Radomir doesn’t go down with alcohol but up with caffeine, though in moderate amounts. He goes to a Coffee Bean or Starbucks, orders one coffee, and spends an entire day writing multiple poems. And the results of this way of working are often brilliant, and often fall flat. I wish Radomir had chosen me as editor or collaborator on this project, because then the book would have been much shorter and a little more polished. However, as I may have said before about Radomir’s work, it wouldn’t be a good idea to get it too polished, because then you risk taking away his voice and replacing it with something else.
One of my favorite poems in Eros of Angels is called “Full Moon Over Laguna Beach”; I’ll reproduce it here in full:

The medication cannot be missed
for even one day

The music vanishes
If it is not taken

Poetry unfocused
Vision unclear

Steps to the door of the castle
Replaced by ankles
Trees rotten on the inside

They tell me to get off of it
It will break me
Take my talent away

But I walk in the moonlight at Laguna Beach
Staring the future in the face
The past in the back

Words come like spaghetti
Passion like a green forest
And love like a cowboy

Medication leading to synonyms and subjects
Dancing under the full moon
Like wolf on tundra

Illness medicated must be
Insanity at bay
Lingering like salt water
Floating like ice cream on soda

Feet fueling faith
Frolicking fingers feeling like
Free form floating

Spirit and psychiatrist one

I just love this. A lot of Radomir’s poems are marred by heavy-handed rhyming and over-alliteration, but not this one. Not at all. I like the images a lot: a wolf in the tundra; words coming like spaghetti; a poet walking on the beach in the moonlight meditating on his medications! What really makes this stand out is its stance: he doesn’t ask to be free from his medications and embrace some kind of “natural high”; rather, this poem is like an ode to those medications, an acceptance of science and its role not just in keeping insanity at bay but stirring up and managing creativity. The last line is amazing.

There are a dozen or so poems in here that are really first-rate. What Radomir has done is, in essence, present us with a sketchbook. We choose what we like and leave the rest. It’s a very illuminating glimpse into the creative process.

He’s at his best when describing homelessness, being down and out, being institutionalized. How many of us can say we have had such experiences? It’s like we’re looking through a peep-hole at something we’re not supposed to see. In the poem “Me” he calls this the “crowded chaos of” his “closet.” Here it is in full:

I am beginning to like me
All commas and apostrophes
Mostly Shakespeare and Hemingway

Living through this rusted day
I am starting to appreciate me
All subjects and clauses

Mainly Dvorak and discipline
And the kind of lows only my highs know

I am loving myself more these days
Holding back the avalanche of acrid alliteration

Moving forward on the clear sky sanity of the promised city
Forgetting the vanquished vowel of vanity

I am speaking up more these days
Secrecy no longer a floating carp
But an avenue away from the
Crowded chaos of my closet

I enjoy the way he makes fun of his alliterative tendencies. He’s able to step away from inside himself and take an honest look at himself and at the same time like what he sees. Rereading this poem just now, I was thinking about one day in forty or fifty years when Radomir (and the rest of us) aren’t here anymore, anyone who finds this poem will find it very touching. Right now Radomir’s poems both thrive and suffer from being close to (associated with) his larger than life persona. When he’s no longer there, how will these poems fare without his voice to back them up? I think some of them will fare quite well, when people of the future will be able to read them without his big voice reciting them: these pieces—the best of them—do have quite a lot of life on the page, as all good poems should.

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