Sunday, August 30, 2009

Matthew Gavin Frank"s "Sagittarius Agitprop"

Unable--or, unwilling?--to distinguish between a muskrat and a wheelbarrow ("Zodiac"), these poems perform metaphoric transformations, at times with blinding speed. "Saucer" begins:

Here is the saucer upon which my father's head
pools like coffee. He's beyond medication.
The hummingbirds have overtaken him, bricking
his smile with sugarcubes.

There is precise observation:

The mosquito wrinkles against the glass ("Mirror")

There is magnification. About Brussels sprouts, Frank, who also authored a food-and-wine memoir Barolo, writes:

Architecturally-correct, each is a habitat
with staircases.

My favorite poem of this debut collection is one I wish I have written. "The Dressmaker's Dummy" begins with a description so sensitive it turns spiritual:

She stands

as if nobly eviscerated, rib-
cage inflated as a balloon, a balloon's

skeleton, a mold, a blueprint . . .

and develops with an anecdote about his wife in a thrift store, sensing "female kinship" with the dummy and buying it. The poem ends, however, by contrasting the "scarily dependable" dummy hanging over the dinner table and the couple forking "the meat of all dinners// into our excited mouths." Noble evisceration is disavowed in favor of uncertain hunger.

Frank and I met on Facebook and swopped books. You can buy his here.

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