by Robert Mueller
As difference has always been the actual mode of becoming for American writing, and as Americans live life on practised edges, or boast of doing so, a volume located among poets who are different may stand on its own coming. To be different would mean to come forward and shout about it, making something so out of the prickly particled air that it rushes or clashes, and, if it swerves jazzily, still it takes care not to do so as if modestly rehashing this or that labor of decorum.
So maybe it is the exuberance coming out of free and fair play that will attract witnesses to the poets (and fiction writers) who here act on their own commands. We note that there is honestly much playful pretension and windfall attention for those who can and do extend themselves. When it comes, it can come from the microphone; it can come from a videotaping; or it can come from any moving and chattering styled to break down the crusty silencing, the old hidden rules, and to brush up a set of trammels that never were of the whole, never clear-cut and stigmatized but meshed to a changeable stitching, an unsuspected crackling.
A metaphysical succumbing unleashes disobedient forces. We apprehend the infractionary drift in the following pages. We redeploy it so as to settle scores, and so much more. We look it up with relish, we make sure the aces are down. As abetting parties we take chances. It is on the wings of fortune, not for the faint of heart, this sudden reassembling, in all its grace and audacity, that displays for our inspection the certain new capacities and reset compass points that may chart our way somewhat dangerously, if not for our protection.
Not for the faint of heart indeed. Surveying these pages will arrive at the courses that cut in and curve out, or back and forth for the more mildly intrepid. It will become an entreating for connoisseurs of unusual hymning, and for the casual thrill-seeker a welcome feat, welcome treasures, exotic and brimming.
In basic terms, these poems and a story or two state their differences by evasion. They find joy in their freedom, and in their definition. They have that thrill on their dancecards. They show what is not an indifferent progress, and above all they wish for what are not the prescribed ingredients. Some one or other divergence from or delay of direct, step-by-step exposition of personal feelings and conflicts and their attendant histories is what signals the dropping out of a soggy narrative and the promise of a happy intrusion. Some one or other atypical going forth trounces the spoon-fed summation. Forget the still sermon. Forget the need to push and press so to resurrect.
To be sure, the elliptical is not a stranger to the literate pros. Writing worth its weight in charm will pursue such an agenda; and nothing could be more important than the order to recombine experience, and to represent it in its particular emotional intensity. It is just that these writers with varying aplomb sense how they might take instability, and re-direction or mis-direction, a stretch farther. Affect, the cupbearer itself of exceeded devotions, strange, pure and self-inspired, surges here and there and in-between ― from Tom Savage’s poem about the statue in the Met that fell apart and is not put back together to Bob Heman’s depth-charging orientation of phoneme/zoneme, and from Karl Roulston’s inwitted triumphs of plus-on-plus locutions to Andy Comess’s self-owned and queerly intricate indisposals. These flitting syntaxes look elsewhere and follow their uptakes, their appetites, like so many aphrodisiacal butterflies or half-spun, horn-spying horseflies.
Also much differently, and with a consistency of difference even if not apprised at the first going forward, hail the writings of Karin Randolph and Carol Novack. Fearless of an unwholesome prosing, they take delicious turns of telling, by reiterating the complexities, alternately simple and immense, in sparkling rotations of detail, or by exactly or inexactly patting down the ghostly imprecations. Katrinka Moore, with her fascinating arrangements, provides perhaps the most festive of the unlikely piquancies. Eric Goddard-Scovel runs out degrees of signifying that readers will not hear off easily and sweetly, but will explore and will secure, somehow; and Mitch Corber takes security to a prodigious height, while Raphael Moser’s backgrounds are rich enough to be endorsed by a plenary of plenaries, also acting on their own commands. Corber’s delightful trickery concludes the volume, and straightaway readers will see the stanzaic neatness as not quite what they clamored for. Moser’s poetry approaches other bounds, but it remains, as condensed as it is rackety, right in the thick of what all the writers herein represented are ― joyously ― about.