Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I read so hard my feet got numb

So I finally got the chance to read Matthew Rohrer's "They All Seemed Asleep" all the way through in a single sitting, which is how, it seems, adventure poems should be read. The poem's narrative is standard adventure fair...reluctant hero finds himself in a world with real, unavoidable problems that he is ironically suited for. But that's not the point to this book, no, it's the way the story is told.
The verse appears fast and loose, but is actually quite controlled. Hard consonants shoot out from everywhere like spun-out gravel and Rohrer uses punctuation heavily, though more as a trait of his characters and less as method of separating ideas and phrases. It's these things, in fact, that lead to the lilting, conversational rhythm of the poem, a rhythm that simultaneously creates and eases tension. What really got me though, were the moments in the poem where the "other world" breaks open and reveals very plain and very authentic experiences, "the days all started like this/for a month I walked around/ and ended up in the bar/ the idea is not to think/ about your life passing/ and it seems not to..."
Roher's work has grown increasingly narrative over the years and this book, I feel, is the pinnacle of that growth. The poetry isn't lost in the narrative and the narrative doesn't suffer at the expense of the poetry, meaning, the poem doesn't feel at all prosy, and at the same time, you don't get lost in the poem: each part contributes equally to the whole. I really wouldn't mind seeing Rohrer work in this mode a time or two more; it's entertaining, pretty and a little thought-provoking. In short, with the help of Octopus Books, Rohrer has crafted the perfect chapbook.

If you like, but it here.

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