Boundary Violations by Tom Cheetham


There is a madcap intelligence at work in these poems, an intelligence that has given itself permission to go as far as it can.  Norman Finkelstein


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 132
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: June, 2015
  • ISBN: 978-1-939929-24-2

Praise for Boundary Violations

It doesn’t get any more honest than this. Tom Cheetham, long known for his dedicated and engaged scholarship on Henry Corbin, here reveals another side to his lively intelligence. The poems in Boundary Violations address us to the ordinary that Emerson proposed as America’s gift to the world. Sitting at the feet of the familiar, the low, Cheetham finds himself face to face with wonder and generously leads us into its glow. Michael Boughn

Coming from a rogue scholar of the imagination in esoteric Islam, a book of poems should be of no surprise, but this one sure is. Tom Cheetham plunges us deep into the imaginative realities of a life as far from Mecca as Maine. By turns ludic, dark, elegant, honest, with an enviable sense of the absurd, and with generosity towards existence, Cheetham is ever faithful to the turns of thought and feeling, interleaving the planes of the real into his continuous and wonderfully whacked-out song. —Joseph Donahue

There is a madcap intelligence at work in these poems, an intelligence that has given itself permission to go as far as it can. Tom Cheetham calls his book Boundary Violations (the boundaries of the voice, of the poetic line, of standard poetic discourse, of literary propriety…), but it could also be said that here, all poetic boundaries have been entirely dissolved. Charles Olson meets Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle meets Rocky the Flying Squirrel. But like other poets who insist on violating boundaries (think: Rimbaud; think: Frank O’Hara), Cheetham is absolutely serious and playing for keeps (OK, maybe not absolutely serious). In any case, I encourage you to join him in observing “the mysterious energies of life exploding off the pages…” —Norman Finkelstein

In Boundary Violations nature is signaling to Tom Cheetham that “it’s closing time.” Like Charles Olson, Cheetham knows that “the soul / is an onslaught.” Thus his mission is to awaken to “the beat beat beat of the tom-tom” by smelling the coffee in Kali’s cup. Reflecting back on the 20th Century’s mimetic ecosystem, he meditates night and day upon the cartoon characters and the cultural download that violated his boundaries. Within the wonder of natural and unnatural kingdoms, he explores his own evolution, feeling the ominous burn of a trans-human future. Put on final notice, the exuberant woof of a monkey-mind warped by predictive programming is playfully reclaimed for poetry in this thoroughly stimulating collection. —Kenneth Warren

Excerpt from Boundary Violations


Uh Oh! Here comes a very horrible emotion sauntering down
the street he is a huge and lumpy cloud of indistinct greyish
blackish muck with bits of undigested food and filth all roiling
around inside and spilling out all over the sidewalk in little
pieces that get up and run alongside him then on speedy tiny
feet and all of them are coming right at me Back i say Back!
as i strike a terrifying ninja pose i am stunned by the perfect
samurai sword that materializes in my hands swoosh i go and
swoosh it does not bother them at all i feel my own blood run
warm and sticky down my chest this is getting serious so i call
in cops and they come running but it’s the Keystone Cops and
they run into each other and fall down a huge gaping pipehole
and are no help at all and now i am engulfed by the garbage
mass of this emotion and feel all sick and heavy with regret
and grief and my face is puffy and my hands are dead the sword
hangs limply at my side i can dimly see the tall buildings all
around through the swirling muck but just knowing they are
out there gleaming happily in the warm sun is enough to kick
me into High Gear the sword rises and slices of its own accord
my own strength coming from the strength that is the strength
of the Sun that great strong man oh thank you thank you Wallace
Stevens! this will get me through it is the power of the Sun and
of the words that call Him into being i will live i WILL live to fight
another day and will not be doomed forever by the endless troops
that are charging down the city streets to do battle with us all and
i am so happy i read that poem a very long time ago before i knew

how much i would need it

About the Author

Tom Cheetham is author of five books on creative imagination in psychology, religion and the arts. He is a Fellow of the Temenos Academy in London and Adjunct Professor of Human Ecology at the College of the Atlantic. He and his wife live on a homestead in rural Maine. They have two grown children.

Additional information

Weight 11 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .75 in