Monday, January 15, 2007

Poems by Mark Wisniewski
Platonic 3Way Press
Copyright 2006
41 pages


I’m handed a colorful chapbook scored with colored squares and rectangles like the modern painter Piet Mondrian. Sometimes the cover does sell the book…along with a neat postcard reproduction stuck in it.

But thankfully the poems are not like the geometrical art of said artist. They are magically real, naturalistic in shape and form, with &’s instead of ands, and also narrative, not very abstract. This is cool with me as I plunge in after the opening poem "Nebraska" about a hitcher and an ugly woman, "as ugly as that October in Nebraska." He’s "thumbing away from himself" and she’s rattling on about her paranoid, murderously angry life in a funny, would-be bad-assed rural way. And I kind of think Bukowski in the open land. But then Wisniewski twists me in these different directions: a basketball game at the Veterans Association, a cherry tree by the lake that gets aborted, a blue sky of buzzards, carpooling under the rubric of "Robert Redford" and all the surprises in topics and language do satisfy like oh, that chocolate martini and grilled calimari with spicy sauce, or even the 7-11 hot dog and red bull I drank at 4:00 a.m. More like the latter. It’s mixed up; but there’s a plan behind it. Kind of like, well, yeah, DeKooning. Is this guy Dutch though? Definitely not.

Or there’d be tulips wouldn’t there be?

No, this guy, this poet, is definitely an American from the Midwest. He’s raw and cynical at times but he’s even, like the landscape at his best. It’s man (narrator) against his "California Girl" roommate, or man against raccoon as in "July":

"eat away
he thought
have the strawberries
the raspberries
the largest raccoon
noticed him
her paws at her snout
another shell cracked
& another
I can sit here all
the man thought
I am better
than anywhere."
p. 21

And furthermore divorce, litigation, radiation are not far from this everyman’s thoughts as he drives and is driven along some Nebraska highway with "the rich whitey on my ass in the Hummer." All the poems dangle like earrings down the page with those ampersands connecting fragments that build into something destitute or ornamental. And that supplies a beautiful and simple unity of form throughout One of Us One Night – the title seemingly referring to a game he plays again and again agsainst the would-be opponent. For there’s a story behind every scene and every chess move. In "San Antonio:"

"even the landlady
pretending high
heels aren’t that loud
squeaks of his mattress promising
that if any man
wealthy or not
simply breathes
long enough
he can work hell
into angels."
p. 28

He counts those miles driving, and he counts the amount of gas saved, money saved by motels off access roads "snaked behind a Denny’s and a Walmart or 2 truck stops & a Taco Bell." But the moral is usually that in-laws get stifled by windows shut from their ridiculing laughter and hearts are saved for belly-dancers, grudgingly for wives…

Wisniewski’s held two Regents’ Fellowships in Writing from UC Davis and won a Pushcart Prize and the 2006 Tobias Wolff Award.

Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press

No comments:

Post a Comment