Stan Rubin’s Five Colors (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Stan Rubin – Five Colors“If colors could speak, words would be insolent,” writes Stan Rubin in Five Colors (Custom Words, 2004). The words in this collection are anything but insolent, & for certain, no syllables are wasted, but the quote, in a way, parallels a conflict in Rubin’s poems — trying to resolve the conflicts between poetic logic & logic, or trying to find a bridge between the two. One would think more poets today would have these conflicts of thinking logically in the apparent delivery of the universe & thinking through the poetic logic of the way the universe feels to be delivered; nonetheless, in Rubin’s poems, the conflict often presents itself, either intentionally or unintentionally. Consider “The Concept of Memory”:

   Suppose you once climbed a hillside
   which you thought was a mountain
   (time t-1) and you did it alone,
   so that, (further supposition) nobody
   knows, no one was there
   to tell that you did it. Let us suppose
   that now you know it was only a hill,
   a high loaf at the top of a street,
   across the sometimes flooded creek
   where a boy alone played windy games,
   then let us consider
   the time between t-1 and now,
   the time we call present,
   as if it were a gift from someone.
   so that you are not part of his game
   though you can smell the mud on his shoes,
   hear the stained laces click together,
   as he hauls himself up that hillside
   toward the distant pagoda 
   he has never reached,
   hand over hand,
   alone in the wet leaves
   after a rain that is still starting
   to end?
                                          (ll 1-14, 25-34)

The other poems are not nearly as deliberate as this, but in this poem, it is fascinating to watch the juggling between the need for mathematical explication & the experiential.

Let’s also consider the less deliberate poems that resolve around the logic conflict, which are more typical of the poems in Five Colors. At the end of “At the U.S. Space and Rocket Museum,” we arrive at a good sense of this:

                 The measure of distance
   the hand of a child. The map of love
   an internal sky. Here in the shadow
   of the predator’s wing, while the camera

   makes its chemical memory, and you stand
   still aiming at me – my love, my stranger — 
   I am as distant from myself as a newsreel.
   I cannot forgive my own heart’s wars.
                                            (ll 9-16)

or the beginning of “Rivers”: “The old part of the brain – the one / that writes backward when you try / to write forward – that part is at it again.” And more specifically the end of “Partial List of the Saved”:

   A partial list of the dead
   is a schedule of forgetting.

   It is what memory is,
   a map of absence

   Remember this:
   It is what love always becomes.

These poems just mentioned also share a similar delivery method – the poems individually accumulate to conclusion or epiphany & resonate. Not all of the poems in the collection do this, but the book as a whole also acts in this manner.

The poems in Stan Sanvel Rubin’s Five Colors tend to be lyrical or meditative (& I can’t help but sense the influence of Oppen on them), & the poems quite often create velocity & acceleration through the repetition of a word or phrase, not dissimilar to a blues musician. These poems are solid, fresh, & many present new approaches to writing poems. //




Rubin, Stan Sanvel. Five Colors. Cincinnati: Custom Words, 2004.//

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