Angel

by Ray Bremser
(1967)
   Originally published by Tompkins Square Press and later by Water Row Press in Poems of Madness & Angel (1986), this epic prose poem is printed all in capitals. Stanzas are in paragraph form with ubiquitous ellipses, ampersands, parentheses, neologisms, and scat-talk. This monumental exposition of love and lack-love was composed in one night while Bremser was in solitary confinement at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey, on a Stromberg–Carlson typewriter.
   Angel analyzes and incarnates vast amounts of human experience. It is dedicated to bonnie bremser (brenda frazer.) It is about how they met, about youth, and how allen ginsberg’s “howl” inspired him. The poem reminds us that Bremser was part of the inner circle of the best minds of his generation. References are made about Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, gregory corso, LeRoi Jones (amiri baraka), philip lamantia, William S. Burroughs, and jack kerouac. The influence of jazz is also apparent in the poem, and Bremser evokes George Shearing, John Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillespie. It is an overwhelming foray into a nontrivial mind, conscious of the political realities that separate him from his “angel,” their music, their Beat artist-andpoet community. It is rampant with folk and street aphorisms and barrels forward with a monster vocabulary juxtaposing rare adjective–noun combinations as poignant and sensible as they are unfamiliar.
   Positioning himself in what would now be called a chauvinistic position as Bonnie’s creator, Bremser as poet suggests his muse (Bonnie) relies on him as much if not more so than he relies on her: “I SHAPED HER, LIMNED HER, LIMBED HER, TRIMMED HER, BLUED HER, GREW & SYLPHED & HOPED TO GOD & PROPHECIED HER NIGHTLY & BY DARKNESS EVERYWHERE.” Yet the reader understands that it is this angel/muse who is actually getting the poet through the night. Bremser explains his agony: “ANGEL THINKS SHE KNOWS HOW HORRIBLE IT ALL IS! I KNOW SHE HAS A FANTASTIC CAPACITY TO GET INTO THE PAIN & TORTURE OF THAT WHICH IS ALL AROUND HER . . . BUT SHE DON’T KNOW THIS TO ITS SHARP CORE, HER DREAMS ARE AS FLYING WONDERS COMPARED TO MY WAKING WALKS THROUGH THE STYGIAN STINKING VOMITED HALLS OF DOLOROUS SPANG & CRONG MUCK.” Bremser’s positioning himself as a poet, with the help of his muse Bonnie, is what saves his sanity: “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING . . . ONLY THE POETS.” As Bremser reminds us, “IT WAS POETRY SAW ME THROUGH.”
   Andy Clausen and Kurt Hemmer

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

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