Monday, February 8, 2010
What I'm Reading: Folded into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm
Conditions holding true: snow, slush, ice, temps hovering at the freezing mark
At the end of January, I wrote about receiving Kristen Orser's chapbook Folded into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm from Greying Ghost Press. I ordered it impulsively, based on the title and this description on the press' website:
"The midwest can be a lonely space to crawl. Heaps of junctions and front roads bordering corn but nobody else is on the road this afternoon. Folded Into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm is a thunder-slap meant for your cheek. There is a ferocity and a bite to these poems as ripe as the 'Bells, bells, bells / resembling / the ferocity of print ribbon. Double / if you are the responder / my words gut.' Kristen Orser shall reckon!"
The rest of the entry from January details the delightful production that Greying Ghost puts into its books.
I've just re-read the 15 poems in the collection after letting is sit for several days since the first read. To tell the truth, I struggled to match the book up to the first two sentences in the description above. These are poems of surrealism and language collage, and while there is a sense of desolation and silence between the speaker (first-person "I") and the you addressed in almost every poem that felt very Midwestern to me, I did not find much in the way of landscape or other Midwestern icons. This troubled me on the first read.
I am happy to say that after accepting the fact of the poet's vision being different from what I expected, I was able to see the craft in the poems and admire it. These are poems of ideas, but holding true to William Carlos Williams' famous maxim, "no ideas but in things." They also remind me of the leaps made in the poems of Wallace Stevens. And the things in these poems are lovely: ferns, canaries, cakes, bells, bones, tongues, and more than I can list here.
Orser has a true gift for titles, which become tiny poems in themselves. For example, here are a few morsels: "a disguise and cake, the thing we birthed and kept under wood," "fever is the affirmative," and "the whisper dictionary is in the antique cabinet."
I also admire Orser's use of white space. Perhaps the gaps and indentations do remind me of the Midwestern sense of space where the eye can gaze on and on before being interrupted by an image on the horizon. Also, kudos to Greying Ghost for being willing to print a poem with long lines perpendicular to the normal printing. However, due to this play with lines and white space, it is difficult to reproduce the poems properly here.
Here are some lines that resonated with my Midwestern side:
From "recently, the fence"
......................Decidedly unsayable --
...................................................The mouth opens,
From "grab the ear"
In the wild region we don't visit,
memories are shoestring
words like ping. Our desire
....................is a flat
All in all, I'm still completely happy to own this book and to have read Orser's work. While our aesthetics might not thoroughly gel, the poems do contain wonderful language and just may push me to risk more in my own work.
Support a Poet / Poetry: Buy or Borrow a Copy of this Book
Folded Into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm
Greying Ghost Press, 2009