Apricots by Carl Adamshick


Carl Adamshick
(no pub., no pub. date)

One of the great traditions in publishing is the chapbook. The term chapbook comes from the 16th century and, according to the New Shorter OED, is defined as a small pamphlet of tales, ballads, tracts, etc., hawked by chapmen. So the tradition continues. The poetry aisle at any book store worth a damn will undoubtedly have shelves stuffed with all sorts of chapbooks–from stapled, photocopied manifestos made at the local copy shop to thousand-dollar, letter-pressed, hand-sewn, limited-edition artworks crafted by the world’s finest artists.

Either way, the result is the same: something small and finite opens to the realm of the infinite. In his Santa Cruz basement, George Hitchcock literally published every poetic genius of his time in his seminal kayak magazine. These ragged, hand-made volumes were filled with strange clip-art and colorful block prints, and showcased emerging poets such as Frank Stanford, Charles Simic, Philip Levine, John Haines, Sharon Olds, and just about anyone else who struck out on their own to do something different. Following the example of Hitchcock, Robert Bly and James Wright started The Fifties, an out-of-pocket dissident magazine of poetry and opinion that ground against the literary and social status quo. Though kayak and The Fifties weren’t exactly chapbooks, they continued the same tradition in alternative publishing as set forth by the street vendors of the late 1500s.

This book measures no larger than 2×3 inches, is held together by two staples, and contains 6 lyric poems, each of which explores a different metaphysical quality of an apricot. Carl Adamshick’s Apricots is a study in the poetic series. Smaller and lighter than a passport, this tiny volume undoubtedly takes a reverential bow to Vasko Popa’s “The Little Box,” which also uses a controlling image (the little box) as a launch-pad into the unknown.

Here is the opening to the final poem in Apricots:


I love incorrectly.

There is a solemnity in hands,
the way a palm will curve in
accordance to a contour of skin,
the way it will release a story.

This should be the pilgrimage.
The touching of a source.
This is what sanctifies.

This pleading. This mercy.
I want to be a pilgrim to everyone,
close to the inaccuracies, the astringent
dislikes, the wayward peace, the private
words. I want to be close to the telling.
I want to feel everyone whisper…

There’s a truism in book hunting that goes something like any book you want is for sale somewhere. At the moment, Apricots appears to be totally off the grid. Fear not–this sequence of apricot poems is reprinted in its entirety in Volume XXV Number 2 of The Mid-American Review under the title “The Ingrown Room.” To see more of Adamshick’s handiwork, head over to saucyman.com, the thoughtful and popular food blog where he writes the column “A Word from the Kitchen.”

The Olives of Oblivion was  an anonymous site dedicated to contemporary poetry that flourished circa 2008. The critics have permitted The Owls to revisit the essays.


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