Diving Makes the Water Deep
Diving Makes the Water Deep
Diving Makes The Water Deep is a memoir about cancer, teaching, and poetic friendship. Alternately wise and wild, humorous and moving, Savich writes of illness and illness narratives, the present moment, pain, memory, desire, and poetry’s oft-debated capacity to matter: “Justify why you have an eye. How come nursery rhymes, how come tulips and clouds, fear and bread, insight without immediate application.” In the tradition of previous poet-teacher treatises—Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey, Richard Hugo’s Triggering Town—this book’s inquiry embraces the reader as correspondent, collaborator, and confidant. Diving Makes The Water Deep, Savich’s second book of nonfiction, is a huge-hearted, riotous memoir—one that will inspire those who love poetry and those who hate it toward further escalation, care, and entanglement.
Zach Savich was born in Michigan in 1982 and grew up in Olympia, Washington. He received degrees from the Universities of Washington, Iowa, and Massachusetts. His work has received the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Colorado Prize for Poetry, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s Open Award, and other honors. His fifth collection of poetry, The Orchard Green and Every Color, was published by Omnidawn in 2016. He teaches in the BFA Program for Creative Writing at the University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, and co-edits Rescue Press’s Open Prose Series.
I have heard it said that a spiritual practice is just that, practice, for use when your crisis comes. You can call upon it then, and it ought to be answerable to that call. Laid bare here and put to the test is one writer’s extraordinarily developed practice of reading, as well as his related exercise of full, ardent friendship and of disinhibited personal freedom; and Diving Makes the Water Deep is a powerful account of why they matter when they matter. This bodied, tender, generous, furious book-long essay discloses the imperiled life, self-led learning, and consequential living, that have made Zach Savich better than any poet of our generation at weighing the momentary and offering the present.
This book is radically alive. Visionary, cantankerous, lustful, generously attentive to what Agee called “the common objects of our disregard.” Savich writes, “My favorite concept remains the actual, despite everything.” Why settle for a life circumscribed by recieved notions of right and wrong, when you could instead live in the world, “entangle further”? In the tradition of the great poet-teacher treatises before it… Diving Makes the Water Deep gifts the reader closer contact with the world by documenting one life’s devotion to art.
If everything you’ve ever heard said about poetry was a beautiful forest in which everyone had already dutifully documented every fir and fern, muskrat and butterfly, but no one had ever turned over a single stone on the forest floor and observed what was living on the surface of the soil out of casual notice, then reading this book is like—I know it sounds crazy—getting to breathe the earth beneath that stone.
The funny bird-masked man playing across the cover and through this book reminds me of one of the first human images, in the cave of Lascaux, where, between a crow on a pole and a charging Picasso-esque bison, a bird-headed stick figure lies on his back. Dead? But he has an erection. The First Poet, then, presaging both his themes? In a letter to a friend, John Keats wrote “I know that blood”—arterial lung-blood on linen—and also wrote “I always make an awkward bow.” For its grace under such pressure, for the ferocity of its human as well as its literary commitments—and in this man, they seem the same—I find this book inspiring. If art and love are what we have to set against the shadow, testimony as to their sufficiency has been crucial to our courage, ever since the caves, and that is the Great Tradition, and this book deserves a place at the high table of that ancient conversation. Meanwhile, Bird thou never wert, opines Bison. Nevermore, croaks Crow. More never, this author might reply, smiling in the face of mortal circumstance. The rest of us, as Chorus, as if having received a personal letter hand-blotted by John Keats, might decorously echo Never, never, never, never, never.