Friday, December 7, 2018

Esther Chen reviews Kyle Flemmer's ASTRAL PROJECTION (2017) and Stephen Collis' FIRST SKETCH OF A POEM I WILL NOT HAVE WRITTEN (2017) online at PRISM International

Thanks to Kyle Flemmer catching such online yesterday through a random Google search, I've found out that Esther Chen reviewed two above/ground press titles this past summer over at PRISM International: Kyle Flemmer's ASTRAL PROJECTION (2017) and Stephen Collis' FIRST SKETCH OF A POEM I WILL NOT HAVE WRITTEN (2017). Thanks so much! You can see the original review here. This is actually the third review of Flemmer's ASTRAL PROJECTION (after Scott Bryson reviewed such over at Broken Pencil, and Greg Bem reviewed such via Yellow Rabbits) and the second review of Collis' chapbook (after Cary Fagan's generous review on his blog). And of course, copies of both titles (as well as their other above/ground press chapbooks) are still very much available.
above/ground press

Defined, “astral projection” refers to the term used to describe a willful out-of-body experience during which the astral body leaves the physical body and travels to the astral plane. The poems in Flemmer’s newest chapbook follow suit. ASTRAL PROJECTION reads curiously, pushing the limits of form, leaving the traditional body of what we think of when we think “poetry” in favour of white space, splatters of text, and hanging brackets. Reading through each piece is an exercise in letting go of the concrete, of certainty. The lines break unexpectedly, jumping from left to right and back again, at times reading both left to right and top to bottom. Mentions of Greek mythology add to the sense of otherworldliness. It is tempting to try to find visual patterns in the spaces of text and blankness, to try to find some familiar form or stanza in which to ground yourself. Instead, Flemmer creates in this book a unique space for the reader to float through the pieces, light.

above/ground press

Stephen Collis’s chapbook FIRST SKETCH OF A POEM I WILL NOT HAVE WRITTEN is comprised of a single, long, twisting poem that oscillates between passionate and resigned, rambling yet brimming with a sure intention. The poem opens by cutting right to the chase, setting the scene of “a universe we / No longer have to search the limits of / the revolutionary subject lies elsewhere” and asks “can we revive?” The tone is restless, that of a racing, intelligent mind: “Late now. Sound of the furnace. Cathy out. Girls asleep. / Take apart all ideas plans and structures again and again.” There is a throughline of righteous anger: at contemporary culture, at the recursive loop pattern of living, at the corruption of art. Open brackets following open brackets and repeating loops of text add to the sense that the speaker is ruminating over these musings, spiralling deeper and deeper, opening box after box. Throughout the piece, Collis maintains a stream of consciousness that is the opposite of messy, the lines hold a straight-edged coherence, clean yet urgent. While a shorter book than other chapbooks out there, Collis’s is an important piece that drives one to question their own artistry (“what is poetry if money is information?”), to pick apart and think, to write and write and write. “Writing as problem solving…” Collis pens at one point, “…in the age of insoluble problems.”

No comments: