The Wash offers a dual-tone voice that reaches for wisdom and doubt at once. The result is a collection of poems both funny and discomforting, but above all, genuine. Adam Clay makes a songbird from the smallest moments and it’s a pleasure to hear his song.
These anachronistic poems are small as prayers but without the posturing. Like John Clare on the long walk home from the asylum, their speaker suffers not from attention deficit but from its surplus, pierced by memory, Nature, Oblivion and the Giant Forms in which “the shadows of fish / live as the fish do.” A Romantic without heroism, a naturalist who knows himself excluded from Nature’s mirror, he goes split from himself, reeling through the tautology of a world without end. This ‘Clock a Clay’ observes with a Clare-ity that includes pleasure, dismay and eroticism, how “a rock / turn[s] black with the memory of my face,” but just “[a]sk and I will be your cuckoo for two hundred years.” Clay’s is an un-Enclosed speaker moving optimistically toward catastrophe: “The window was so clean / I walked into it, hoping for a headfull of sky.”
On every page of The Wash, Adam Clay discovers new kinds of eloquence, elegance, excitement, and inward experience from which a language springs that can flow forward through present space (wherever we are now) and backward (often to old England), then downward into the still reaches of the heart where the waters give us our own faces back… . This book is an eyeful and an earful. It teems with originality.