Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman


Mayakovsky’s Revolver
by Matthew Dickman
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
New York NY
Copyright © 2012 by Matthew Dickman
93 pages, hardbound, $18

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

If you are going to make it in poetry, the Matthew Dickman highway to success is a good road to take.  According to a Wikipedia article Dickman will be thirty-eight this coming August. He received a B.A. from the University of Oregon in 2001 and has been the recipient of fellowships from The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin, The Vermont Studio Center, and The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He is the author of two chapbooks, Amigos and Something about a Black Scarf, and two full-length poetry collections. His first book, All-American Poem, was winner of the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, published by American Poetry Review and distributed by Copper Canyon Press. He was also the winner of the 2009 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for that book, and the inaugural May Sarton Award from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Mayakovsky’s Revolver is his  second full length volume and it is easy to see why he has won the awards. From catch opening lines like “ no dog chained to a spike in a yard of dying/grass like the dogs/I grew up with…” And “Because I miss you I have made a pile of clothes/along the bed, your exact height and weight.”  Or “There’s no telling what the night will bring/but the moon./That’s a no brainer.”  Try this one:  “The only precious thing I own, this little espresso/cup. Finally,  “I’m thinking about the ancient Egyptians/and how when someone died/they would separate the body forever in four jars…”

And those are only the beginnings! Lest you think this book is one of humor, be cautioned. Dickman’s poems are about loss and grief, remembrance and sadness. Even the book’s title recalls the Russian poet who committed suicide like so many other poets have done.
The title poem tells a lot about Dickman’s poetic powers, his thoughts and ability to translate them to paper:

I keep thinking about the way
blackberries will make the mouth
of an eight-year-old look like he’s a ghost
that’s been shot in the face. In the dark I can see
my older brother walking through the tall brush
of his brain. I can see him standing
in the lobby of the hotel,
alone, crying along with the ice machine.
Instead of the moon
I’ve been falling for the lunar light pouring out of a plastic shell
I’ve plugged into the bathroom wall. Online
someone is claiming to own Mayakovsky’s revolver
which they will sell for only fifty thousand dollars. Why didn’t I
think of that?  Remove the socks from my dead brother’s feet
and trade them in for a small bit
of change, a ticket to a movie, something
with a receipt, proof I was busy living,
that I didn’t stay in all night weeping,
that I didn’t stay up
drawing a gun over and over
with a black marker, that I didn’t cut
out of the best one, or stand
in front of the mirror, pulling the paper trigger until it tore away

These poems heavy in the heart. Ropes hung from light bulbs ready to burst. Emotions boiled like potatoes, but not mashed, Instead they remain hard, the skins cleaned, the interiors there for us to explore if we wish to enter.

His poems beg us to enter. Demands we look deeper. Is My Brother’s Grave about Dickman or his brother. Is it about grief or remembrance. The past, present or future.
Perhaps it is about all of this:

Like a city I’ve always hated, driving through but never stopping,
my foot on the gas, running all the lights,
wishing I were home. Hating even the children who live there
as if they had a choice. I imagine him
in his ten-million particles
of ash, tied up into a beautiful white bundle of lace, a silver bow
looped where his neck should be,
thrown into a washing machine, set on a delicate cycle
to spin forever under the dirt. The all of him
left, the vegetation of him, the no more thing
of him: his skateboard and mountain bike and beers and cigarettes
            and daughter
and mixtapes and loneliness, his legs and feet and arms and brain
            and kneecaps
Out the graveyard
there is still some part of him
buried in the mysticism of his DNA, smeared across a doorknob
or brushed along the jagged edge of his car keys. Two kids
from the high school nearby
will fuck each other on top of him
and I won’t know how to stop them. Someone
will throw an empty bottle of vodka over their shoulder
and he will have to catch it.

It is a book to be read with objectivity and subjectivity. With sensitivity and never
with an ice box of a heart.   It is a book which will be a permanent part of a collection.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7

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