Thursday, April 09, 2009

Review: Zachary Schomburg's The Pond

Ponds serve as a marker. A marker of wealth. A marker of geography. A marker of personal history. But in the case of Zachary Schomburg's "The Pond," it is a marker of a clear, but subtle shift in one of contemporary poetry's most exciting voices. Where Schomburg's first full length collection, "The Man Suit," reappropriated James Tate for the wandering and curious, "The Pond" reads more like a discovery, albeit one you'd only share with your best friend/lover. There are moments in this book that are so bold and yet so innocent your face blushes as a sense of embarrassment creeps into your toes;

I'll show you the cave
where all the bats come from.
You'll show me that place
between your knees
where my hand goes.

The single most amazing aspect of this book though, is Schomburg's awareness of that fact...and his subsequent use of this awareness to turn you from voyeur to active participant.

Where many other poems by many other poets would place the audience in their usual role as onlooker, Schomburg's poems pull out the chair for you, invite you to sit, and the invitation is so cordial that every time he mentions "you" or "we" the reader is almost made to squeal with excitement. You are the one chosen to hear all these secrets, you are the one he loves, we are going to have quite the adventure figuring this world out. And though it has never been Schomburg's tenor to alienate the reader with dense language and general poet's trickery, the simpleness of these poems increases your need to connect with them...their eagerness to speak to you demands an equal eagerness to listen attentively, caringly.

It's in this way that "The Pond" becomes more like a reflecting pool. This collection is decidedly Zachary Schomburg and yet, it is decidedly me, decidedly you. The magic of these poems doesn't necessarily take place within the printed words, but in the space between what those words are meant to symbolize and how those symbols are acknowledged in the brain. Meaning, when Schomburg mentions "the pond," I envision a specific pond (it's the one in front of my aunt's house), as do you, and Schomburg does nothing to stop it, in fact, these poems only work when you imagine that pond, at which point, you are no longer being asked to play in Zachary Schomburg's world, rather, you unknowingly invite him to play in yours.

You spend most of the day in the pond.
Every time you blink your eyelashes fall out
and then quickly grow back.
I spend all day collecting them.
They're what I make boats out of.
We like to ride bikes and fly kites together.

It's in these spaces where our brains infuse Schomburg's lines into our actual memories, like a lie you've told one too many times, and though it might feel a little creepy to admit, isn't this what we all really desire in our poetry? To have it be lived by someone? To be a marker of some kind somewhere? Jack Spicer used to mention magic everytime he talked about poetry, and "The Pond" is as close to a magical experience as I've ever had reading poems. To be honest, it is the book that made me reconsider my stance on both magic and poetry...

Congratuations Zach, James Tate might be the master illusionist, but I'll take the wonder of a good coin-in-the-ear any day. Besides, you can only see illusions so many times before you figure them out, but done right, when a magician holds that coin to your eyes, your first instinct will always be to reach back into your ear.

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