Fall Issue 2022
The Book of Whispers, Review by Antonia Alexandra Klimenko
Ernest Slyman's The Book of Whispers is a strangely beautiful, mythical journey into the realms of truth, knowledge and understanding which resonates with the hum of a
brilliant singing meteor into the universal language of expression. Shedding light on life's most profound mysteries with insight, humor and compassion, Slyman's every paragraph is a revelation of wisdom and wonder which delights and engages the reader as does it inspire.
Little whispers grow up to be big whispers that dare to scrape the sky. Others, left in the dark, afraid of their own shadow, hide under the covers. There are encouraging whispers from down comforters whose beds we slowly and gratefully sink into, and whispers from under the corners of soft loving pillows that remind us of mother. There is the haunting suffering of the long-faced Dark who ultimately must bear the burden of ghostly terrors through time immemorial. Dark is often an underappreciated energy who can only truly unburden himself in the light of understanding.
All of the characters are fantastic in originality. There is Grape Seed who despite the size of his small head manages to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and snag a gal whose noggin is the size of a grapefruit. A wildly imaginative and curious character who, in his own quest, poses unanswerable questions about the murmurings of sunlight and starlight and 'the truths that make the journey-- 'the large truths, the ones that carry us on their backs from generation to generation, '' ''the murmur of their love for humanity.''
There is Joan Full of Light who, having becomes a vegeterian and health enthusiast, grows brighter with each almond-coated breath, ''And soon her whole body spilled a puddle of light on the floor." She, is a tall fluorescent bulb wearing a pantsuit''. There is also Joan, who tossed out her television and channeled her own light : ''I love you i love you i love you."
Niagara Falls is a wonderful welcoming stream of consciousness
Adolfo the Illitereate reminds us that words want to feel loved : ''They need for affection and understanding : The real words aren’t in books. They’re out in the street, working for a living. Not resting on their laurels in books," ''All you have to do is listen to the words that come from peoples’ mouths. Not the words in books shackled to the page, but free words that pass peoples’ lips and land right between your ears. Don’t read nothing. Just listen. I hope I don’t have to tell this again.''
The Straight Clock ''Why do you think ? they took a piece of our souls." The gay clock is ticking. The straight clock has a way of losing sight of important things, never quite keeping an eye on our time. Its time is a minute swilled like a bottle of cheap booze by an unshaven man huddled in the doorway of a Broadway theater. Stinking of fear, its fingers are inside its ragged coat, looking for another lie to tell us, holding grudges, resenting our success, noticing our flaws, and not giving us our proper due.
King of the Philharmonic ''The voices of thoughts are little more than whispers to some people. A dark shadow cast by a single doubt in your head can cost you plenty. It’s big as the Chrysler Building and people you know are riding up to the top floor and looking around at all the marvelous artwork on the ceiling inside your head. What brushwork! Who painted that? Leonardo Da Vinci?''
The Philosopher Wears Lipstick ''I compliment the lawn sprinkler for its non-intentional, or perhaps pre-intentional, openness to a world in which demeans the purpose of yard accessories. The hidden underlying question that grass asks the sky is perilously profound. I find a promise will clip the shrubs. It wags its tail. I meet it at the front door and let it out to do its business. It will return. We won’t be overwhelmed by our need to know. We can’t comprehend what can’t share. The promise has no obligation to sleep at the foot of my bed.''
There are a number of other 'chapters' with characters as marvelous all of which are deserving of being read and enjoyed more than once.The last few paragraphs in The Philosopher Wears Lipstick perhaps underlines in red the essence of our nature- to be both at one with the universe and separate in our own world.
''One day the world will collide with the sun. And with it, whatever we found together will somehow survive. These fragments I hold sacred. I know they float in space. Tiny bits of you and I scattered throughout the universe. We spin and dart toward the light of divorce. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to break loose from the gravity of the sun. Yet I find it truly gratifying. And enjoy the crescent moon that rolls along the Milky Way. If there was one thing I regret, it was nor leaving you sooner''
While there is something to be said for our worlds colliding and melding into one,
I ponder this offering of a necessary separation to appreciate both the otherness as well as the ordinary extraordinary sameness. How else to whisper sweet somethings into each other's ear. I confess, I am all ears for anything Ernest Slyman cares to whisper into our rarefied atmosphere. I have no doubt it will bear on its back one large truth whose reverent hush is bound to be heard for light years to come.
Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary Tambimutttu of Poetry London–publisher of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few. After his death, it was his friend, the late great Kathleen Raine, who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to publish. Although her manuscript was orphaned upon ‘Tambi’s passing, her poems and correspondence are included in his Special Collections at Northwestern University. Klimenko, a former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion is widely published; her work has appeared in (among others) CounterPunch, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Big Bridge, Iodine Poetry Journal, Strangers in Paris–New Writing Inspired by the City of Light, Vox Populi, The Criterion International Literary Journal, Occupy Wall Street Anthology (in which she is distinguished as an American Poet) and Maintenant: Journal of Contemporary Dada Poetry and Art archived at the in Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She lives in The City of Light where she is Poet in Residence at Spoken Word Paris.
Ernest Slyman lives in New York City. He is a playwright, poet, novelist, cartoonist and humorist. He was born in Appalachia - Elizabethton, Tennessee, and attended East Tennessee State University. His work has appeared in the "Young Women's Monologues From Contemporary Plays: Professional Auditions for Aspiring Actresses, edited with an acting introduction by Gerald Lee Ratliff/Meriwether Publishing His work has been published in The Laurel Review, The Lyric, Light: A Quarterly of Light Verse (Chicago), The NY Times, Reader's Digest and The Bedford Introduction to Literature, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer, and Poetry: An Introduction, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer.