I first heard Marty read at the Vin Master Wine Bar Final Friday Readings that were held in Charlotte for several years. The events were organized and hosted by Jonathan Rice and M. Scott Douglass who pulled in poets from all over. The poetry was an eclectic mix of humor, philosophy, blues, politics, and commentary on everyday life, and I was introduced to and made some good friends on those Fridays. Marty was one of them, and his poetry seemed to touch on each of those elements at some point.
This is from his bio from his book, The Teleology of Dunes – He is a writer and assemblage artist. He grew up in Quincy, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, steeped in the mythology of Mark Twain. Settle was in a Catholic religious order, attended Quincy College, the University of Illinois, and UNC Charlotte, and is a Viet Nam Era veteran. The three loves of his life are his wife Deborah, his daughter Hannah, and words.
I use his bio because Martin draws from all of it in this collection. His poems honor the sacredness of both nature and humanity – some of his work inspired by the words of Paul Shepard, Wendell Berry, and Black Elk. His poems carry the pulse of family heartbeats – the ones that race and the ones that ache.
With Marty’s permission I’ve included one poem from his collection . . . and then I snuck another one in. (Titles are bolded).
So here’s Martin!
1. Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? How old were you? What was it about?
I think the first poem I wrote beyond birthday card sentiments to my mom was a poem about rebirth after my divorce. I was around 35 and I felt like Punxsutawney Phil seeing the sunlight.
2. If you could share a cup of coffee or lift a glass of wine with any poet, living or deceased whom would it be?
e. e. cummings — he was the first poet that I loved
parting grasses near a tree bole
I open a curtain to an ancient scene –
black snake coiled around a chipmunk.
the chipmunk’s mouth curled
in agony of last prayer.
what to do.
deus ex machina
I could unravel this drama
with my hands unwinding the twists
head to tail,
or like Alexander simplify the tangle
with my knife.
in a youth
unattuned to tragedy
I would have watched this drama
siding with prey,
prejudiced by myths
of deceiving serpents,
and fangs in the heel.
but I have seen the vulnerability of snakes
helpless as strangers passing through.
or jaws unhinged
unable to plead their cases,
like witches of Inquisition.
this alimentary script says
that we eat our prayers
that mercy may be an injustice
that the abstractions we mouth
do not exceed the next meal.
I do not stay for the climax,
or the darkened tunnel toward death
swallowing whole is a paradise
difficult to accept.
best to walk away
as God does.
Seven Jars with Seven Fetuses
Reflections on a display at the National History Museum-Chicago and all lives cut short
I want to say their names
these babies in bottles
progression of fetal questions
when can we say a work is really done?
the smallest the size of Van Gogh’s ear
the largest with fists ready
for pronouns of suffering
I have traced my Viet Nam sorrow
in the valley of black stone
humidity of 50,000 deaths
names without bodies
honor without ears
were it better never to have been born?
I still hear their cries
freezers filled with 50,000
fertilized human eggs
comets waiting to be called by a sun
how long does creation keep?
can thought be thawed?
does what we sacrifice
come to our tables in 10,000 years
as mastodon meat?
names that do not come to term
U235, U238, RU486
rivulets wriggling to water tables
caverns for dark sortings of the liver
is the body a temple?
are cancers tetragrammatons?
does plutonium have a home?
blood of the lamb
culture of the zygote
what new religions from caduceus?
Ishmael and Isaac
cloned with Abraham’s knife
genes of Jesus resurrected from shrouds
Dolly Lamb reincarnated with Dalai Lama
does Babel have twin towers?
is Jacob’s ladder a double helix?
whose birthright has woolly arms?
how long can fists hold history?
is the table laid for a guest?
is there still some detectable heat?
is this the hiss of the Holocene?
can we meet in cryogenic tears
angels of microwaves?
how many planets are stillborn?
do the arms of the galaxies embrace?
what light might yet arrive?
what scales to measure bliss and holiness?
who will whisper Lazarus?
should we bury our dead?
what wraps grief in sleep?
Martin Settle ~ The Teleology of Dunes
Available through Main Street Rag Publishing Co.