STILL: OF THE EARTH AS THE ARK WHICH DOES NOT MOVE by Matthew Cooperman
(Counterpath Press, Denver, 2011)
There are many interesting effects in Matthew Cooperman’s STILL: OF THE EARTH AS THE ARK WHICH DOES NOT MOVE. I emphasize “effects” because each page pulsates with textual energy to push you, the reader, forward. It’s apt that the colon is used frequently here, in titles and as section subtitles, to visually attest to cause and effect, and you want immediately to know the “next”—that effect.
As one of its interesting paradoxes, the book could easily be a page-turner, except that the text concurrently makes you want to linger in order to pay a deeper attention than what might be allowed from a faster read.
And, ultimately, when I’ve finished the book, I still feel the sense of energy—the anger, even—in the book and yet can’t help but consider the book more to be a snapshot, a still, indeed, rather than as, say, a movie. And I think this is because there’s no beginning-and-end, if you will, to the collection. Indeed, the first poem “STILL: WINTER” begins with the word “and” to bespeak things occurring before the poem (or book) even began.
The lack of a (seeming) “end”-ing, in particular is also significant to me so that the book ends up (to me) presenting a portrait of a moment(s) in time but there’s no attempt at resolution—the collection remains mostly a depiction.
Sure, it behooves me now to mention some of the many things being depicted—wars, business failures, greed, Empire with a capital “E”, dogs, literature and so on and so on: the stuff, I imagine, in the poet’s lived world which, as presented, is an admirably large canvas. But what makes it all poetry, I believe, is the poet’s craft in handling his material. I can’t say it better than one of the blurbers did, so I’ll quote Gillian Conoley for the effect that I am hailing here: “how [Cooperman] works a lyric out of its rage.” For example, the opening of “STILL: OTROS”
Tea Party: the United States already has enough people with college degrees, but who is going to cut our lettuce, our tobacco?
Hunger: “The piano travels within,/ travels with joyful leaps./ Then meditates in ferrate repose,/ nailed with ten horizons.” (Vallejo)
Mystery: all at once freak out, I is not X’er, I hate computers, I am buying a new house on the Mexican border, I know Philip K. Dick lived there, at dusk, in the 70s, the sky fills with Easter Island heads, or what is beyond anthropology, Paul Klee, I missed the important first years
Zeno: I can write my way into another as a function of time; it is X and approachable though I am always Y; this is the way in which space manifests my privacy and my language; she is cause and I am an island effect
transcends itself as just a formation of a list because of the energy-rhythm within the poem as well as the choices for what will be collaged into the poem. The poem ends with a quote from Willie Stark, and it is something that seems to say something deep….but, in my opinion, really isn’t:
“Time brings all things to light….”
And, yet, it’s a useful ending to the poem. It has the sense of being a conclusion, but doesn’t offer the type of content that distracts you from turning the page to satisfy your curiosity about, What else…
This assessment isn’t an insult. The effect is effective for being a mark of our times colored by quick attention spans as enhanced by the nature of internet-grazing. It’s like what’s often tweeted, you know what I mean. (Or often blogged too often if you read my blog.) And what’s often tweeted is relevant here, to the extent that such content may be part of the poet’s world from which he—working as, to quote Conoley, a “Geiger counter—lifts objects or elements not authorially pre-determined.
Finally, the collection ends with a page of four words:
It’s quite an effective ending. It’s like the book’s persona can keep going on … observing and depicting and depicting in a way that ultimately begs the question: WHAT ARE WE ALL DOING?
Strum: Strum: Strum: Strum: That’s more of a guitar sound than a violin sound, to me, but the yadda yadda yadda aspect does evoke a violinist. The one who kept on while Rome burned and burned. The ones who kept tweeting about the Kardashians while [and I reformat here a paragraph from “STILL: FIGHTING” into a list for a different emphasis] what's unfolding are
Actium, Massilla, Thermopylae;
Antietam, Appotomax, Vicksburg, Shiloh;
Ypres, Gallipoli, Somme, Passchendaele;
Khe Sanh, Ap Bac, Tet, My Lai;
Alamo, Medano, San Jacinto, Wounded Knee;
Kirkuk, Mosul, Karbala, Samawah
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects as she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her books. Her newest book SILK EGG: Collected Novels is reviewed by Zvi A. Sesling in Boston Area Poetry Scene; by Michael Leong in Big Other; by Alan Baker in Litter; and by rob mclennan. Stephen Hong Sohn also reviews SILK EGG along with two other books, NOTA BENE EISWEIN and FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA: Uncollected Poems 1995-2009 at Asian American Lit Fans.