Bill Cushing's Notes and Letters is an endearing little chapbook, and was published in 2016. Its contents range from observations of nature and odes to diners, to waxing on religious faith. The origin story of the entire collection, is perhaps, the most fascinating aspect of the work. Bill Cushing, the poet in question, knew Chuck Corbisiero when they were young, and lived in the same neighborhood in New York. Cushing was in a band, which would practice in Corbisiero's garage, though Corbisiero was not in this band at the time. But then they grew up, moved away. As luck would have it, these two men were able to reconnect many years later in Los Angeles.
According to Cushing, Corbisiero, now a professional musician, was inspired to study music seriously after all the time he spend watching Cushing's band play in his garage. Excited to have found each other after all those years, the two decided to bring their musical and poetic talents together. Notes and Letters features Cushing's poetry, but their collaborative performances can be heard on YouTube, as well as live at the venues where they perform.
The written delivery of Cushing's pieces upon the book's pages is soft, and his poetry tends to fall into a state of observation, rather than one of inquisition which could prompt inspiration in his readers. Despite this, the languid nature of the pieces ultimately adds to the pleasure of reading them. While these poems may not send out fireworks of inspiration, the cadence Cushing orchestrates is pleasing, when spoken aloud and when read internally. And this is not to deny Cushing's writing ability. The wry comments of the speaker in "Blues for Earth" are quite enjoyable. Readers themselves will snort with sardonic pleasure when they read of humankind "...doing our damnedest / to undo / the rolling wonder / of this planet / we deny ourselves / nature..." and "...perhaps the really intelligent animals / traded in opposable thumbs / for fins / dew claws". On the whole, the work is rather soothing to the mind. His poetic verse "...splashes / runs / pounds / and flows..."
Cushing's poem "In Pink Neon" will draw forth fond memories for any readers who have their own favorite greasy spoon where the "...coffee's so strong it pulls your eyelids back / going down..." Their stomachs will grumble as they imagine the butter, "...warmed by sun shining through slatted glass...," rolling down a "...stack of browned pancakes..." It is a simple perfect ode to simple perfectly imperfect establishments all over the United States.
In addition to providing mouth watering illusions of diners, Cushing continues on to make a very important point within his piece "Music isn't about standing still and being safe.", one that is particularly suited for this day and age in which the world of poetry finds itself in an online revolution. Cushing posits that "categories" must take a "...backseat to creativity / and rhythm / space / and feeling / spirit..." Poetry is "...beacon / a flagship for messages / of the heart..." and does not care about the human made confines of page or screen. It is absolutely imperative to let poetry evolve along with humankind, because without it we will all "...drown in thin air." Indeed, this kind of evolution is needed for every art form.
Unfortunately, while "living with garbage" may be "the end result of civilization as we know it, it is a happy thought that at least some of humanity's by product is poetry. Especially poetry which encourages a collaboration of all the arts.
Notes and Letters is Cushing's only work available to the public, but Finishing Line Press will be publishing Cushing's latest collection, A Former Life, later this year.
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