I started reading poet Janaka Stucky’s new book, “The Truth Is We Are Perfect,” on an overpacked subway car, and finished it lying on top of my bed with altar candles lit. Both situations felt equally holy. Incantatory and incendiary, Stucky’s words lull you into a state of trance before sucker punching you with hard truth. These are poems of longing and danger and glittering, terrible beauty. They are jammed with spiritual supplications and psychedelia such as "a holocaust of seahorses" and "green arthritic rocks," as well as references to his childhood, sexual encounters, and moments of mundane grace.
At times he’ll weave a web of intricate imagery, such as:
”Watch me poltergeist as I
Chrysalis your life
In my long hollow booOOoOoo
Think of my white hands
Haunting any house you build”
But then a line like
“There is nothing wrong with being alive”
leaves me breathless and bone-cut with its simplicity.
Stucky has catapulted into the firmament of my favorite ecstatic writers alongside Diane di Prima, Bill Callahan, Hafiz, e.e. cummings, and Larkin Grimm. Like the best mystics, it’s impossible to tell if his poems of desire and heartbreak are about a beloved or The Beloved, and we’re reminded that it doesn’t matter, because those are one and the same after all. These are the ruminations of a man in love with the natural world and its deities. Someone who knows that destruction is an inevitability, but that transcendence is always just a syllable away.
“The Truth Is We Are Perfect” is first single-author title of Third Man Books (the literary arm of Jack White’s Third Man Records label), and if this is any indication of releases to come, I count myself very excited to see what’s next from them. You can order it direct from them, or via Amazon, and I highly encourage you to do so.