Anyone who has met Paul Tayyar, a local poet and author of the books Scenes from a Good Life and Everyday Magic, likes him. It’s impossible not to. There is a genuine kindness and caring that comes through for anyone talking to him that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before.
This generosity of spirit comes through his poetry as it must. Poetry is such an incredibly personal art form that it is impossible to write it well and maintain any kind of pretense especially with the kind of poetry that Tayyar writes. In his past books, I’ve been able to feel his love for his children and his students. I’ve been able to come with him into his childhood and experience his part of the Los Angeles and learn to love the city as he has.
That’s why Postmark Atlantis was a surprise to me. I think those of us who are fans of Tayyar’s work often misunderstand him as an unwavering beacon of optimism and joy, and this book backs away from that joy a little.
Of course, no one contains only one single emotion, and in this collection we’re given a view into the poet’s life that I’ve never seen before.
There is longing here. So many of these poems look at the world from that other self that I have never seen before, that part of himself that is not quite satisfied with life and cannot really explain what there is to be dissatisfied with. It’s a very human quality, and I think something we all feel.
One of my favorite poems captures a single instance of childhood when the strange thoughts of youth have his narrator create a dove out of a cloud and then infuse his creation with sadness: “Everything she has ever known has been lost / With the ghost of the sun / She can do nothing but sing / While I stand helpless on the road below.”
It’s a complex and strange moment, but of course, people are complex and strange things, and he is able to contain that convolution in a quick snapshot.
In another poem, he gets into the mind of a lonely magician: “You want so badly to tell how it’s done / That you tell it to yourself each night before sleep, / Narrating a film that no one will see.”
The loneliness and longing of these characters and so many of the others comes though until we ache for Tayyar’s characters, and I think come to know the poet a little better.
I truly love Postmark Atlantis. It expresses emotions that are not easily defined, and it captures our humanity beautifully. I highly recommend it. If you are new to poetry or even to Tayyar’s work, you might start with his earlier collection, Scenes from a Good Life, but do yourself the favor of eventually reading this collection of shockingly beautiful work.