Two New Reviews

by jtandon

The 2012 issue of the Mid-American Review is out with work by Derick Burleson, Adam Cloud, Neil de la Flor, Oliver de la Paz, Richard Garcia, David Keplinger, Rachel Mennies, Alissa Nutting, Maureen Seaton, Diane Seuss, Jan Wagner, and Charles Yu, among many others.

Included in this issue are my reviews of Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, collaboratively written by John Gallaher and G.C. Waldprep:

Reading G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher’s collection of poetry, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, often feels like being stranded by a flash blizzard, then dazed by the scene of pristine beauty it leaves behind… Despite swift currents of language and thought, these poems are not sprawls of absurdity or a mind on fire, raging to spill its grey matter in splats of ludicrous monologue. There is control, economy, and the lyrical impulse to communicate. Lines…turn fluidly, musically… often resulting in pitch perfect poetry.

From the “many disappointments of broadcast news” to melanomas and Mapquest, this collection stirs the stew pot of contemporary American life and all of its sloganeering and directives…With over two hundred pages of poetry appealing to a range of sensibilities, intellects, and life experiences, this book radiates wisdom without the overt droppings of pearls. Waldrep and Gallaher’s imaginations have fused to form a supernova of a book.


and The Trouble with Rivers by Grant Clauser:

Robert Frost, in his brief aesthetic statement “A Figure a Poem Makes,” declares that a poem “begins in delight, ends in wisdom…[the poem] inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life—not necessarily a great clarification…but in a momentary stay against confusion.” The majority of the poems in Grant Clauser’s debut collection The Trouble with Rivers illustrate this directive well.

The “delight” in these poems comes from Clauser’s sharp poetic eye describing the rivers he fishes and the forests he ambles. Yet despite the frequency of natural settings and solitary speakers…these poems do not end in the achievement of a transcendental sublime. Whatever consolation these poems offer—to alleviate sorrow, grief, and the existential confusion that life engenders—is as Frost intuited “momentary,” and Clauser finds this temporary reprieve in night fishing for catfish and feeling the kick of his unborn daughter. 

The collection begins quietly, haltingly, with a speaker racked and numbed by the loss of his infant son. A portion of this grief is directed toward language’s ineffectiveness at capturing the ineffability of experience, of the most intense human emotions, and our inabilities to convey them to one another…Despite the feelings of emptiness and regret…In Clauser’s poetics pain, anguish, and loss are transmuted by the natural world, affirming that a soul in communion with nature is never lost for long.