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Patrick Lawler

Some poets and writers et al. respond to Feeding the Fear of the Earth

Student responses

Q & A with students at the University of Northern Colorado (04/2007)



“Patrick Lawler is a madman. His poems remind me of the cosmic yet earthy hair-dust of profound, secret talk vibrating still in napkin folds at a café table once shared by Marcel Duchamp, Mahatma Gandhi, Madame Curie, Mickey Mantle, and Hélène Cixous. Lawler exhibits startling leaps of imagination that reveal the interconnectivity of all elements of the universe and knows that the true purpose of the poet is—as Gary Snyder has described—to ‘hold the most archaic values on earth.’ We visit the body of his remarkable poetry like stepping into our lives anew, with respect for the chalaza of an egg inhabiting the in-between of many journeys. Sit up straight, close your eyes, place your hands palms up at the juncture between the thighs and the hips, and peer into the pineal gland otherwise known as the third eye: Lawler’s extraordinary poetry is already there, intuitively known to us, vibrating like a foreign yet profoundly familiar dawn, arising from and dissolving back into a continuousl generative source, what we might call love, or bliss, or—as Lawler himself describes—‘How birth sometimes looks like something else.’”

—George Kalamaras, author of The Theory and Function of Mangoes


"Even people who've been dead for centuries love Patrick's poetry!"



"When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,

I think of Lawler, and am gratified."

—John Milton



“Reaching across time and space and cultures and genders, Patrick Lawler gathers characters as diverse as Christopher Smart, Ed McMahon, and Rosa Parks. Ecological and ethereal, political and historical, philosophical and physical, this astonishing book is a place where anyone who has walked the earth can rub up against anyone else. A place where the light of their sometimes painful, sometimes humorous encounters reveals our connectedness as earth unfolds around us. Lawler’s sensibility is woven of brilliance and tenderness.”

—Linda Tomol Pennisi, author of Seamless


"The Soul selects her own Society

Thenshuts the door

To her divine Majority

Present no more

Unless it's Lawler at the door."

—Emily Dickinson


“In Patrick Lawler’s brilliant Feeding the Fear of the Earth, the Earth itself is the poet’s playground. But in playing with cultures, geographies, myths, and histories, Lawler is deadly serious. This is a poetry of dazzling and disturbing invention that shows us what we didn’t know or didn’t want to know or had forgotten we knew about the world we inhabit. ‘Everything we once feared we must fear again,’ writes Lawler. ‘And everything we once loved we must love again.’”

—David Lloyd, author of The Gospel According to Frank


"Whenever I hear Patrick's poetry I always want to go DOWNTOWN!"

—Petula Clark


"Here's lookin' at you, Patrick Lawler."

—Humphrey Bogart




Response Journal on Patrick Lawler’s Feeding the Fear of the Earth

by Amy Bauer

for Dr. Lee

March 28th 2008

Patrick Lawler’s Feeding the Fear of the Earth is a time warp... that sucks up the visions and personalities of some of the earth’s most extraordinary figures and merges them with the destruction and injuries humanity subjects the earth too. In his first poem, Lawler writes, “It was a time/ when time was/ ground up into/ history” (3) beautifully illustrating the world of his poetry where time is suspended and images of history can be seen in the present. He draws powerful connections between eternal poets and modern stars of pop culture together, all commenting on the ways humans contribute towards allowing the “fear of the earth” to grow, and the few who find way to allow that fear to starve and return earth to its original state of wonder and perfection.

“ Life’s too big to be only one person” (4) Lawler declares in “Dante Saying Arrivederci to Hell Sees Mary Wollstonecraft Riding a Dolphin”, making a simple statement that profoundly describes the nature of this poem and the rest of his poetry. The earth that he wishes to explore and the society of people he wishes to comment on are too large and diverse for him to only be him. He allows his poetry to delve into the minds and spirits those who also had vision and the wish to explore the unknowable world. In this poem also, Lawler introduces the first of the four elements that his poetry, this book and three others, investigates. Fire runs through this selection of poetry, charging it with the power and force that fire represents and appearing in different ways and incarnations. Lawler says in this poem that “The first world is fire” and then later describes his sporadic moments of self understanding as “flickerings,” evoking the transient image of a candle flame dancing in and out of existence. This “flickering” continues into the next poem, allowing the transition to flow with the grace of another one of his motifs, water, appearing as “flickering and flashing…fire words” (8).

This image of burning and flames persists throughout much of the poetry in the form of the burning spacecraft, “An angel with the wing of fire” (9), and culminating in the poem, “Those Who Died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Find Themselves Working in Hamlet, North Carolina”. This poem dives headfirst into the time warp, reminding readers how the ghosts of the past permeate the atmosphere of the present. He writes “Those who died in factory fires wait for us…Those who’ve died in factory fires / always walk among us” (11), creating an image of those who perished and an ominous apocalyptic outlook for the fate of the human race. Because the poem centers around a tragedy of history that was sparked during the advent of technology, the poem offers a distinct statement about the dangers of allowing the mechanized world the replace the natural one. The poem is full of harsh and vicious imagery and language describing the “wire” and “the smell of burnt flesh” (11), also emphasizing the darkness of the fire motif. He also deeply weaves the impact of the literary world and poetry into the fabric of history by comparing a spool of wire from the factory to the skull of Yorick, an image from one of the greatest tragedies, Hamlet.

Each of Lawler’s poems is stunningly written, and stunning to the eye, taking on a variety of different forms, forms which allow him to further experiment with the boundaries and power of poetry. The recurrence of the form of the first poem “(black elk and petra kelly visit love canal)” emphasizes the interconnectedness of the poems to each other and the past to the present. The six poems that have the same form, structure, and language, but undergo a type of transformation, beginning with a description of dangers and intrusions of the modern and technical world, but evolving into a description of one of the most traumatic catastrophes of modern science and research- the explosion at Chernobyl. These poems become a haunting warning for the reader and a reminder of the precious earth that is ours to lose.