New Depths of Deadpan
Poetry, 72 pp., offset, smyth-sewn pbk.
Burning Deck, 2009
Reviewed by Patrick Dunagan
Michael Gizzi’s poems play it deadpan exceptionally well. Cast throughout the poems as though each page were a stage, words are his characters, shrugging off assumptions casually laid upon them and bubbling with an ever present humor that at times may be just slightly muffled.
CLOISTERED IN AN OYSTER
Another sleepless night with the top down.
He has a headache that could write its own biography. How long
can one inhabit a dumb-waiter? His mother Pearl plumps his
Eyes lie through their teeth. Is it important to be unfortunate?
Is shucks not enough? Perhaps he could import a diver to yank
him out of bed?
Another clammy night.
Gizzi takes Leibniz’s monad viewing room out for a stroll and runs with it. “Witness the window grappling with the body.” (NIGHT-BLOOMING GRAMOPHONE) New intentions get written out via substitutions of the unfamiliar alongside the familiar, “Aliens write in puns we know are curly fries. Drive-up windows make this clear.” (THE DEEP) Every day reality gets a re-set as common experiences get blown to alternate extremes entertaining with surprising delight that refreshes without taxing one’s patience.
Rather than expressing any persona of Gizzi The Poet, full of immediate concerns of personal or other nature, these poems scamp across the page in lively play of language and imagination achieving that rare comfortably of hitting stride in new spaces. Continuity comes, when it comes, from cultural and literary references spun wildly beyond confines of previous assumptions.
and in the sky there were glistening rails of milk
An armory with no army
which every summer leaves obscure.
Call it respite. Say a train wreck dreamed it,
a purchase in the blur.
Was there a split in the arborist?
A shame we ignore the same words.
Sap becomes shellac.
A hand goes up, flanked by magicians.
A tale told to pigeons.
This is play at nobody’s expense, the grubby world gets opened up and explored anew as Gizzi tests the unexpected appearance and unravels those distancing tendencies which so often hold readers back from just going there with trust in the poem. This is poetry as show-n-tell for adults and the classroom is the day-to-day world as it gets reshaped and re-defined.
Having swapped poles, I guess it’s safe to say we’re sound asleep.
Who has time for space? Euphemism’s as good as it gets (oxidized juncos).
A difference engine spooking even the shade of Houdini (particle
theory), no visible means of escape. A cage within a cage custom-made
for a wraith,
with divots left by the great head-banging auk.
Not a laugh-in but a standup coffin or comfort station for autism.
Can one say bee-keeping is useful
and Egyptology is not? How is it that buttons offer solace
softer than personalities?
That “great head-banging auk” is our self, testing the limits of our capability for wonder, finding that there really is no end to our ability to be stunned while still digging the merits of the encounter. Gizzi situates the speaker of the poem somewhere between resting on standard perceptional perspectives while also endeavoring maintain some semblance of self without resistance to being held off balance for a while. He then twists and tweaks the situation just the slightest bit to get to where words go to when they leave the comfort of home, dragging his readers with them.
Yosemite Sam upbraids a dust devil.
What does she have to say about the weather on Lesbos—or on
drugs, for that matter? Leave it to Beaver Lamarck to formulate
a batalog of cloud types. These here blew in from the French
Revolution to stack up over this canary yellow hum cover.
Gizzi plays his lines, fine tuning as he goes, bouncing a raucous bash of sound off sense, making such meaning as surprises himself as much as his reader. What does it MEAN is not a priority ahead of does it rise to being some fresh thing now known? Flip the assertions, change your orientation, and see where that leaves you. Gizzi’s fired up the starting vehicle, charge on out with him for the ride.
There were in him the makings of a bird, a giddy soldier, a sailor,
too. As he liked to put it, a mind can really get inside your head.
* * *