Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 115 in 2008.
Review of Eddie Woods, Tsunami of Love CD
(Amsterdam: Ins and Outs Press, 2007).
by Jim Feast
There’s one widely accepted truth about love (in the modern world), but there’s also a second truth, complementary to this one, that is systematically ignored and put in the shadows by all but the most unflinching. To find it, one must locate a real Argonaut of passion, such as Eddie Woods, who in his new spoken-word CD Tsunami of Love lays out both truths, dark and light, as he meticulously describes the course of a long anticipated, beautifully and lengthily consummated, and disastrously cut-short love affair.
One character in this affair of the heart is the author (or his persona) who at the beginning is, metaphorically, an expat American beachbum in a city of dikes. But that should be qualified. He has the panache, informality and love of life of a free-spirited drifter but combines that with the high artistic productivity (as a writer, photographer and supporter of culture) that belongs to a card-carrying Bohemian. And, for my dikes reference, he lives in Amsterdam, seemingly in congenial, convivial surroundings, and yet something is missing, as if his life is blocked. What is lacking, at outset, is the love of his life.
This is Jenny, a divorcee with kids, living in middle-class farm county of Devon, England.
On the surface, an odd couple. How would their paths ever cross in the first place?
Here’s the rub. 23 years before their affair formally (that is, physically) begins, they were both lonesome travelers seeking spiritual nurture in India and where they became coquettishly enchanted with each other.
They separated, but maintained their link through the intervening years by a spiraling correspondence.
[Sex] was never meant to be all that we had.
Our letters, and we exchanged hundreds,
Attest to this: the scent of roses and no thorns.
I speculate that for him the letters, though more intense than his other writing, did not differ globally (in style and thought pattern) from his general correspondence; while for her (I continue to imagine), married and living in a constrained, bourgeois nest, they represented the only outlet, a lush, romantic lyricism. Perhaps, this introduced an imbalance to their relationship
But let’s get to the two truths. Everyone recognizes this: Genuine love, grand love based on a magnetic, earth-moving attraction, cannot be put into words.
Lacan says love is keyed to inexpressible factors, such as the timbre of the beloved’s voice or his or her exact skin shade.
More can be said on this in connection to the second, usually unstated corollary to our first truth, which is that the breakup of such a vivid, triumphant love also usually occurs for unverbalizable reasons.
(We need to be clear. This is not to say the divorce of sentiments is irrational or unexplainable, but that any reasoning or explanation behind it arises from non-linguistic centers. And since its governing force eludes words, it is all the more viscerally overpowering.)
Such is the nature of the break Woods endures.
Finally, Jenny and Eddie got together. He abandoned continental Europe, moved in with her and her kids, stayed with her six years, although at the end, they felt certain strains and decided to separate (amicably, he assumed). He returned to Amsterdam, after which the killer blow fell.
Then your letter bomb arrived.
Complete demolition job.
What it boils down to is,
good riddance to bad rubbish.
Three decades of friendship
lovers for more than six years.
And that’s all you have to say.
Your final summing up? Wow.
If you can’t (verbally) lay your finger on the cause of the rupture, how can you hope to heal it?
Woods admits he has some irritating habits. “My archive // (absorption in the past) // my e mailing // (the world beyond us) // that and my moods // (all writers have them).” And he confesses that a poem he wrote dissing their neighbors may have alienated her. He states, “I fear I may have hurt you // with my poem about Devon.” But none of this: his behavior of attitudes, long telegraphed in his decades of letters, can account for the violence of their split. She destroys the letters, the photos he took of her, It is as if she wants their past to be wished away or, to use a housewifely metaphor, whisked away. As he cries out,
Did you seriously believe I’d not feel it
when you put our whole past to the torch?
... I even felt you wiping my fingerprints away
By contrast, for Woods it is as if the past was estranged. For how can he help contrasting their moments of deep bonding: “How I admired you // never seeking to veil // your splendid nudity,” with the sudden barrenness of their relationship? How could these two slices of life be part of the history of the same couple? A time of chatty, intimate, good humor bonhomie versus a spiteful, unyielding state of sex war.
The book evocatively charts Woods’ (unrewarded) search for answers so he can fathom the reasons for their severance. In this forceful and authentic poetic cycle, read in a fastidious, unadorned style (no musical accompaniment), the author gradually assimilates the facts but never locates the reasons. This refusal of easy answers allows him (in words) to courageously face the unpronounced truth that some of the deepest movements between humans occur beside language.