Friday, August 17, 2012


I am honored to have some recent work appearing in the following publications among some very talented people: The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare ed. Paul Legualt and Sharmila Cohen (Nightboat Books, 2012), Lana Turner, Solicitations (American Books, 2012), The Writing Machine with Cynthia Gray, The Cultural Society and Judah Rubin's The Death and Life of American Cities, as well as a collaboration with artist Jenna Ransom forthcoming in Diner Journal.

Review of Mum Halo | John Coletti (Rust Buckle Books, 2010)

head fast
in out as dead
till rending
long still
faint stir
unseal the eye
till still again
seal again

-Samuel Beckett

I watch my love

It is always my love that I watch

-Simon Pettet

In a review ofJohn Coletti’s Mum Halo, Edmund Berrigan writes,“Coletti’s poems often combine brevity and emotional resonance on a balance of opacity in measured detail.” Berrigan succinctly identifies the precision and remove of Coletti’s lyric, and what’s more is the poems in Mum Halo install a kind of warm drapery over the world—his subjects soothedthough at times, obscured. Consider “Small Portions,”

I was walking alone

tucked into your wish list

as if I were a surgeon
on vacation in the Loire

that fold in paradise’s
Arbor Day cloth

Cloaked inmemory, in dreaming language, music coils around Coletti’s subjects and, with averbal agility that begets an adoration of the everyday, these poems insist onthe novelty of being alive. It is the material of the world, its look, languageand music, that Coletti folds over itself. And this fold is the crease where thepoem(s) happen, where the occasion of experience exists more in the creases of,say, a to-do list, than in the list itself—though such a list is still key toknowing these poems.

“Champ Little Groom”—the first poem inthis collection—even the title enacts texture—when said, pops the mouth, clicks the tongue against the teeth, then purses the lips. It’s this prelude that informs the observational and aural movements of this work. But beyond oral aerobics lies an immediacy that gropes at meaning by way of associative visual and psychological data.

My elbows are little brains

coiled up in Windsors

Unicef scribble

bark with four plums

poodle silhouette

of sunshine

melting frosting

over trophies

pulling onesies

up the East River

swill poke stag party

of the future

In “EyeholeWind,” Coletti sees the bulbs of wrinkled skin at the ends of elbows as “littlebrains”—an observation which, if you ever look at your elbow, or anyone else’selbow, makes completely perfect and weird sense. The hinges that Colleti’slines hang on seem to inhabit the same kind of wrinkled space. The concision ofboth sound and imagery create the push and pull of a line like “swill poke stagparty” that releases into “of the future,” a line which in its flippancy,allows the poem to almost comically escape.

Somethingsublime happens in Coletti’s observational gumming of moments and sounds. Andin this spirit, Mum Halo is a book of tinyobjects made from tiny objects. With a disarming sense of address the variousspeakers in Mum Halo hug these objects from allangles. This charm persists in what is availed to readers: a tonnage ofgrist—hacked and massaged into music. In “Real Purpose” this sense of rendingis apparent in the imagery—a torn novelty foam hand—as well in the play ofsounds paired in “sheep distance” and “muscle breath,”

Foam hand minus thumb

bra boy & sky mirror

I’ll cover for you

if you sheep distance when

the fold comes in

sometimes I fold

like muscle breath

great hair

For Coletti,textures are meaning, and the visual space of this collection is a multidimensional landscape of touch that moves through sound.There is a weight and, as Chris Martin suggests in his brief essay “StateChanges in the Work of John Coletti,” “[w]hat is important is texture” and how“[h]is collisions create new entities.” For example, in “Physical Kind,” thetitle seems to not only suggest the meeting of friends, as in an exchange of‘kindness,’ but also the ‘types’ of physical descriptions that this situationis positioned against—

Arranging the leaves

Pushing good hay off to eat in a cart

A crushing crowd of bird eyes

A hushing why of words

In walks my favourite

Five-o’clock smile

He hugs me like a quilt truck

Like a worn piece of felt

Howeverfractured a sense of the world is sewn together, Coletti’s insistence is towardone of inclusion. As the book closes, when the speaker of “Me & My Falcon”is faced with the harmless dilemma of not drinking a half of a glass of waterleft on the counter, he coolly asserts, “I won’t. / I’ll always / drink it up.”

By Douglas Piccinnini

*This review first appeared in Sustainable Aircraft.