Sunday, August 03, 2008
This is where you go when you are gone
by Timothy Gager
Cervena Barva Press, $7.00
A review by Mignon Ariel King
One might expect less poetry from a natural-born fiction writer than appears in Tim Gager's "this is where you go when you are gone (2008)." The collection is indeed narrative, and the poet rarely jumps through linguistic hoops to display metaphoric magic. Yet, the emotion is raw and unapologetic, much like the Blues. There is no introduction to this distinctively masculine tale-like delivery. Instead, in the first poem "Moving Boxes" simply "sit like office furniture/like martyrs,/[...]full of contained memories"(11). Ouch.
Be prepared for the narrator to just barely contain himself as he observes and records the details of his "once great relationship"(11) as if merely talking to himself. He pretty much is talking to himself--walking, sitting, standing, drinking, drinking, and drinking some more--in a daze in an empty room. There is an overabundant supply of bitter break-up poetry to be had, so much so that this narrator is actually a refreshing change. What rescues the brokenhearted voice from boring the reader is his consistent questioning and lack of focus on himself. His longing is enticing. There is no disembodied "she" plaguing him. There is always only "you."
Oddly, poems in the collection that are not about the dissolution of a marriage have greater literary complexity, are darker, and can be harsh. When the narrator discovers that a baseball bat from his grandfather's barn belonged to "no silver slugger/he never hit a lick"(13) he sounds pretty ticked off about it. He even chastises his younger self for asking a stupid question after his uncle loses a limb in the war. He seems furious with everyone except "you" and booze. Halfway through the collection, a sarcastic and annoyed voice is at full volume. "I've Drunk the Holidays" sums up major avoidance and complete self-awareness rolled into one. The narrator drinks everything he encounters in twelve stanzas: "the sea...the limestone of Mount Rushmore...the sun always rising...the last slice of apple pie...the car payments...."(18-19).
Gager's "reply to someone who said my poems are all sad" is hilarious. The first line is "fluffy white cotton tail bunnies"(29). You'll have to go read the rest. Certainly, "sad" does not do the poet justice. A narrator who makes gritty references to Tom Waits, carries cash and no cell phone, so must "[drive] miles in dust/to find this pay phone/to whisper in your ear/i love you baby" is much deeper than "sad." He is pure melancholy, and in these poems, melancholy is a beautiful thing.
To truly appreciate the collection: turn off the overheads, skip the tea, and read like a man, dammit, for Gager is best in a dimly-lit room accompanied by an ice-cold beer. This poetry might break your heart, but you will survive, and learn, and ultimately want more...