What Comes from a Thing by Phillip Barron

What Comes from a Thing
Phillip Barron
December 2015
San Francisco, CA
Fourteen Hills Press
68 pages
$12.00
ISBN: 9781889292670
Buy here

In What Comes from a Thing, Phillip Barron reveals the essence that seeps from the mundane just beneath our attention. He dwells within the blurred borders between nature and the hollow shells of artifice that seem to develop not on the geographical edges of civilization, but on its perceptual edges.

What is man-made develops a complex relationship with what is not—it cuts through ancestral memories, waxes lifelike as metal climbs walls like ivy, and through its rusted gaps, frames the processions of life unfolding nearby.

What is ugly alone is often beautiful in context—a sunken tugboat is digested by the tides as years pass, and industrial tires breathe frost. The aliveness of the world is made more obvious contrasted against the shadows and skeletons of its own cessation.

A dip into Barron's verses evokes a poignant way the decayed and fog-hidden trappings of forgotten modernity can intensify the spirit of the living world around them, and a deeper immersion might leave you unable to look away from the wake of human material development.

Barron's imagery switches from warm to cold, nostalgia to the present, and from sweet to sorrowful without deviating from a theme of our living role in a changing world.

Barron scarcely deviates from steeping his readers in a forlorn loss of self that he achieves by bringing out a timelessness and placelessness that comes through the tension between the artificial and the untouched.

More meaningfully, throughout all of this, there is identity. Heredity, culture, individuality, and the passing down of tradition all snake through the holes in Barron's fences, mingle with his mists, and harmonize with the trumpeting blasts from his trains that cut through time to declare themselves. Environment is identity, Barron reveals, leaving no question as to why its contents are of utmost importance.

This collection's title is the key to understanding its meaning—Barron scarcely deviates from steeping his readers in a forlorn loss of self that he achieves by bringing out a timelessness and placelessness that comes through the tension between the artificial and the untouched. The "What" in What Comes from a Thing is the pause brought to your sense of who you are in the light of your personal emergence from his manufactured, fabrication-littered landscape.

If you have ever found yourself rapt at the remains of an abandoned structure, gazing into a sad and beautiful part of a lost world, you are already familiar with the entry point to the experience that endures throughout What Comes from a Thing, but there is more than that to see in Barron's focus on the finer details of this experience. Even though his reliance on some imagery may get a bit familiar at times, what it communicates comes through clearly—"what we have done is what we will become." 

Justin Quirici
Nomadic Press
Quirici is a writer and a student of consciousness. He follows politics, culture, academics, and entertainment to track trends in the zeitgeist.