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The Justice of the Night

by Glen Cavaliero

(Tartarus Press, 2007; 88 pages; ISBN: 978-1-905784-01-1.)

Review by William P Simmons

cover scanDiverse in its night-haunted subject's stylistic approach, Glen Cavaliero's disturbingly beautiful yet emotionally scathing collection The Justice of the Night is most notable in its unflinching ability to evoke the ambiguity of human experience and the various degrees of possibly supernatural and subjective mental perceptions that help comprise such.

Cavaliero's themes are grounded in a style both intellectually rigorous and emotionally intensive. Carefully chosen words are utilized for their ability to describe not only a moment, an object, a perception or a character; they are also utilized as philosophically penetrative talismans, revealing levels of possible meaning behind themselves. Practically any one of these poems -- frozen glimpses of reality that may or may not be aware of itself -- suggest moments of truth both mythological and realistic in so far as their imagery and informing themes hint at -- and often mirror -- twilight-time observations and feelings that are neither one nor another but composites of both the objective and subjective.

Born in 1927, Cavaliero is a man of many literary and intellectual pursuits, including a devotion to English supernatural fiction, mysticism, and critical studies of Charles Williams. These interests appear to have lent an emotional lens through which he examines haunting moments of glory and despair, drab reality and those mystical glimpses into otherness and the infinite which owes as much to individual perception and identity as to powers of intellectual observation and a hint of the infinite. This sense of great, unknown powers and phenomena, truths and revelations, hanging on the very edge of conscience reality and the subjective mind are as often gleaned through the senses as through the calm voiced self-analysis of an intellectual responding to external stimuli. This paradoxical, self feeding relationship between self and nature, identity and the cosmic, objectivity and subjectivity is mirrored in both the subject and themes of the poetry, most clearly reflected in the reoccurring images and thoughts associated with borderland imagery and experiences.

While a majority of supernatural fiction and poetry has traditionally described the supernatural and fantastic as direct contrasts of the rational everyday order of objective thought and 'reality,' the truly visionary authors of the genre have tended to treat the infinite and occult not so much as refutations of consensual reality but as intricate shadings of the everyday -- the magical, the religious, the strange and terrifying doesn't necessarily occur outside truthful existence but is, in fact, a breathing, crucial aspect of it simply hidden from us. Our limited senses, intellectual prowess, and scientific/religious prejudices are in part responsible for hiding the infinite from us. Such pieces as "Points of Recognition," "Dark Tower," and "Metamorphosis" resemble in their manner and implications some of the more powerful writings and ideas held by such authors as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and the philosophically searching lines of Charles Williams. Admittedly from varied viewpoints and suppositions, each of these men felt a sense of relationship with the unknown, a sense of greater truths hidden either behind or deeply within the onion peel of everyday existence. Cavaliero appears to share this suspicion, as a number of these evocations of inner turmoil and deeply felt reflection appear to suggest intuitive knowledge of/belief in times between times, worlds within worlds.

The four sections comprising this deeply penetrating collection of insight and spiritual observation is bound together by the poet's intimate connection with/reflection of the various possible layers of meaning, knowing, and feeling within (and occasionally just beyond) the depths of personal revelation, instinct, intellect, and actual supernatural experience. Fifty four meditations on nature, the self, the psyche, the subtlety occult, and the mystical pathways and darkened byways of the human heart and the universe in general make up the contents of "The First Lesson," "That Old Black Magic," "Ground Level," and "By Command." That the aforementioned 'borderland' moments are rarely over dramatized only adds to their raw power.

A simplicity of approach and sureness of style -- a quiet yet firm voice -- lends disquieting insights undeniable authority. No standard ghosts, revenants, Faerie, or succubi are unleashed herein, not directly anyways. Rather, shades and vague suspicions trouble the waking dreams of outsiders and contemplative men, and shadows of the uncanny and fantastic stem from everyday, common, yet no less painful moments of relationships, romantic love, family, etc. Displacement, grief, love, and even faith carve the conduits through with SUGGESTIONS of the nightmarish and sublime approach the surface of our understanding. In fact, then, this follow up to Steeple on a Hill (1997) occupies a special borderland itself, somewhere between personal reflection and archetypal memory, confession and dream-scape. Bold, lively, and capable of peeling back the robe of possibility with a voice as unobtrusive as it is startling, The Justice of the Night is nothing less than art.

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