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The Charge in the Global Membrane by B.W. Powe Reviewed by Anna Veprinska, author of Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis

If a review seeks to capture a work – to seal it with praise or condemnation – then B.W. Powe’s The Charge in the Global Membrane pushes against being reviewed. The book’s lack of page numbers, its shifting fonts and colours, its ambiguousness of forms, its assemblage of word and image grasp at the present moment against the impulse of being sealed, the impulse of being made past. And yet, the recognition that it is impossible to hold on to the present moment is already part of this compelling, significant work: “In the time it takes to write revise this, design it, burnish its space with images, then publish and publicize it, our conditions will have transfigured again.”

Early in the text, Powe probes, “is it possible to understand this present? Can anyone truly see what’s in front of us?” In answer to this, Powe brings us to the edge of sight. But he doesn’t leave us there alone. Like Virgil to Dante, Powe acts as a guide in understanding our charged present – our “immersion” in the technological, electrically connected, vibrating world. Through poetry, diary entries, aphorisms, letter to Net-gens, and meditations on the Gaia Hypothesis, Trump, Facebook, literacy, covfefe, books, tattoos, data breaching, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, and movies, among other cultural markers, The Charge aspires to touch – sensually, pressingly – the “new mythic creature, part flesh, part energy-current” that is the twenty-first century human.

Writing in and adding his unique voice to the traditions of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Simone Weil, Walt Whitman, and Marshall McLuhan, among others, Powe also speaks alongside the voices of William Blake, T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, and Emily Dickinson. This is a highly charged work, but one that leaves room – among the past’s greats – for future impressions and perceptions. The last two pages are left blank except for the words, “Here’s a blank page” and “What do you see coming?” Alongside these words is what appears to be an intentional coffee cup stain (coffee signifying alertness, alternative state of being), but, in a work where meanings multiply and pursue one another, this semi-circle appears as an aura, a crescent moon and star, a planet – none of these complete, all in the process of becoming.

Particularly striking is the letter to Net-gens, the generation of “digital natives” whose minds have been shaped by their technological birthrights, near the end of The Charge. “Don’t click away too much of your souls,” Powe prophetically warns. Instead of immersion in clicks and tweets, Powe suggests books, nature, laughter. There is concern in this letter, but there is also gentleness, acceptance, reverence: “No generation should define the next. You must live in your way.”

Alongside Powe’s riveting text, The Charge includes stunning photographs of street art by Marshall Soules. The city, thus, is unyieldingly present in this work, its buildings and faces greeting the reader with immediacy. Image 6, titled “Heart’s Journey,” features a woman tearing open her own chest, while image 29, titled “Heart of the City,” features a heart hanging above (or is it crashing into?) an urban scene; these images speak to the opening-closing that the text repeatedly references, the meeting point between sensitivity and digital vibration.

This is a stunning and startling text – one that pulsates insistently in our present moment. And, if “the global membrane is a heart,” as Powe offers, then this text speaks from and to the heart. The Charge functions as an electrical pulse that aims to rouse our digitally-immersed hearts, but this book is also hope, prayer, devotion – if we are courageous enough to open ourselves, to be present, to pay attention to this remarkable work.

To buy the book click in the image

 

 

Bookstore at York University to host launch of B.W. Powe’s new book “The Charge in the Global Membrane”

Wednesday, October the Second (2019) from 4 until 6 pm

Launch of B.W. Powe’s new book “The Charge in the Global Membrane”

At York University Bookstore in York Lanes.

Click here for more information

A Great Review of B. W. Powe’s “The Charge in the Global Membrane” by Robert K. Logan

It’s a book,
No – it’s a poem,
No – it’s a diary,
No – it’s an art book
No – it’s a searing analysis of today’s politics,
No – it’s an indictment of the misuse of digital media seen through the lens of media ecology,
No – it’s a review of poetry and song lyrics,

Actually it is B. W.’s meditations distilled into, words, colors, and fonts along with images by Marshall Soules and a masterful job of typesetting and page layout by NeoPoiesis Press.

Here is B. W.’s description of the Membrane in his own words because only B. W.’s words could describe this totally revolutionary way of writing a book, a poem, a diary, a political analysis, a critique and a literary review all in one:

Here’s  /
a seizing of moments  /
a venturing into the vibrations  /
a poetry collage essay  /  a journal diary
a gathering of aphorisms  /
a thought experiment that’s an attempt  /
to put my finger  /
on the pulse  /
the passion

Again  /  journeying on the waves  /  cycling back  /
Into the current  /
Yes  /  I admit  /
To following my fascinations  /  my obsessions  /

The Charge in the Global Membrane places you in Marshall McLuhan’s global village located on Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere contemplating Lama Anagarika Govinda’s mystery of electricity and the way it manifests itself as life, consciousness and communication. Here B. W. muses about and meditates on the global membrane including xenophobia, the refugee crises, pilgrims both physical and digital, Trump and other authoritarian despots, cult leaders, shock jocks, trolls, hackers, the loss of privacy in the “web whorl”, the misuse and sale of our data, the disappointment of the digital environment to meet our basic needs of connection and community, information overload, fake news, our misuse of the environment, global warming, climate change, the compromise if not the loss of literacy, the loss of intimacy. He touches on many other topics ranging from the “me too” movement and the obsessions with selfies to tattoos, graffiti, yoga, head phones, smartphones, iPhones, search engines, Google, Alexa, Facebook, robots, AI, virtual reality, blogs, podcasts, never ending upgrades and all the other trappings of the 21st Century. In vivid detail, Powe reveals the dystopia of digital based and screen based life, with its endless flow of banal data “signifying nothing”.

While not providing remedies and solutions for the shortcomings of our global membrane, Powe through his searing analysis of all the woes that beset us at least identifies their stark reality, which is the first step in the amelioration of those woes. He also reveals their interconnections making another important contribution.

Powe’s communications’ analysis of Trumpism and the harm it does do society is connected to his media ecology analysis of the digital environment that makes Trump’s form of authoritarianism so compelling to so many. Powe shows how Trump uses twitter and TV sound bites to mesmerize his base. Powe also analyzes the way in which print media, television and Twitter as well as other social media impact political dialogue and politics itself.

Powe combines the literary criticism tradition of his mentor and professor, Northrop Frye, with the media ecology tradition of his other mentor and professor, Marshall McLuhan. He interweaves the two traditions in a fascinating analysis of our brave new world of digital media and the new literary forms of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Like McLuhan he critiques education, classrooms and reading styles. He references an endless stream of poets and writers:  Emily Brontë, Blake, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dante, Simone Weil, Emily Dickinson, Coleridge, Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Alice Munro, Don DeLillo, Elena Ferrante, Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Carson, Marilynne Robinson, Sylvia Plath, Sam Shepard, and Allan Ginsberg

He reflects on pop culture, rock and Woodstock and connects the lyrics of the song writers Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, David Bowie and Joni Mitchell, to the poetry of Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

Given Powe’s fascinating style, the reader should not expect a linear narrative. Rather B. W. creates a mosaic structure more in the style of mentor McLuhan rather than that of mentor Frye. But, I would suggest that B. W.’s writing style while somewhat similar to that of McLuhan’s that in a certain sense it is post-McLuhan in the way so many different streams of thought are juxtaposed challenging the reader to see the connections that animates B. W.’s vision of today’s digitalized reality. There is another major difference in the writing styles of McLuhan and Powe which is the beauty in the way B. W. expresses himself in a text that is highly poetic. As I said at the beginning of this review: “No – it’s a poem.”

Powe jumps from one theme to another often tracking back to a former topic and then pushing on in a never-ending flow of ideas moving forward again in a spiral whorl and whirling spiral of reflections and observations. By juxtaposing different currents of contemporary culture new insights emerge.

BW Powe’s Membrane is quite addictive. I read the book (I should say devoured it) in two sittings only interrupted by the need to get some shut eye resuming my read upon awakening the next morning. Once you start this book it is hard to stop. There are no chapters, no sections, not even page numbers. No preface. No footnotes. No index. One page flows into the next in a non-stop flow of ideas, words, insights and images. The book itself is a highly charged global membrane.

As the book comes to a close Powe pens a poignant letter to the Net Gens, the digital natives describing their challenges and what digital media are doing to their brains and their spirits. He offers them his advice for what it is worth.

Powe then closes with his hopes for the future setting a religious tone that runs throughout the Membrane. His diary entries, for example, correspond to various religious festivals and special days of the calendar with a spiritual dimension to them: Ash Wednesday, International Women’s Day, Daylight Savings, the clocks change, The First Day of Spring, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, a day of rest for some cultures, Easter Monday, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Ramadan, World Environment Day. Then there are the references to sacred book, Genesis, Book of Proverbs, Book of Job, Isaiah, and the Kabbalah

Maintaining this focus on things spiritual he writes as the Membrane comes to a close:

When cries and moans become prayers and calls for grace… “Greetings / Blessings / I hope / for / the approach of hope / sparks / for / sparks/ of hope / hope/”

And I close my review with my hope – hope you too enjoy B. W. Powe’s The Charge in the Global Membrane. It is well worth the read and the ensuing reflections that are sure to follow.

And I must say I have never written a review like this one because I never read a book like this one either.

Robert K. Logan

 

Amar, Artist: Essay-Memory Fragments by B.W. Powe

Joseph Amar was a Canadian artist, painter and sculptor. The magazine, Hamilton Art & Letters (HA&L), has published BW Powe’s piece about him: Amar, Artist: Essay-Memory Fragments by B.W. Powe.

Click on the image to go to the issue’s cover:

Click on this image that goes directly to B.W. Powe’s piece on the artist, his friend Joseph Amar: 

Bruce Allen Powe, June 09th, 1925-November 16th, 2018

Father, friend, mentor, companion in humour.

SAMSUNG

 

Beloved husband to Alys Maud Powe.
Beloved father to Kathleen and BW.
Beloved grandfather to Katie, TC, Jeremy and Elena.
Beloved father-in-law to Paul and Auxi.

Thank you for your generosity, kindness, decency, and wit.
Thank you for sharing your life with us.

May your spiritual travel now be gentle and welcoming.
And may your wine-cup be always full.
Farewell and fare forward.
Your devoted son,
BW.