by Weston Cutter
Dynamo Carrie Meadows already wrote a full review of this book, and I want neither to tread on toes or cover ground twice, but holy shit is this book worth some of your time. “The windows on the soon-to-be luxury / condos across the way say things / to the darkness I can’t hear. Sometimes / they’re blocked by the train masticating / its way across town.” Those are the opening lines from her “Vinyl-Sided Epiphany,” and ignore, if you’re opposed, how she stuffs strange and unexpected words into expected scenes and thoughts (masticating instead of whatever other verb you’d prefer a train engage in), and if you find the compound adjective (and its gentrifying inplications) in the “soon-to-be luxury” phrasing, well, that’s fine, too, that’s choice and opinion.
What you likely cannot find reason against loving is the windows saying things to darkness that the speaker cannot hear. What you cannot argue against all through Ideal Cities, Meitner’s second collection (and a Natioanl Poetry Series winner), are poems like “You Are Invisible,” which begins “and everything is tucked in twice. / It is night-time at the Waffle House.” Plus there’s more, page by page: it’s easy enough to get caught up in the mesmerizing mesh of voice Meitner uses throughout the work (it’s all a unified voice—I’d argue hard that the speaker’s consistent throughout the book—but sometimes the voice is talking old parties and buzz, sometimes a kid sleeping through the night and now), and comically simple to thrill at the variety of cities at work in here, and how Meitner understands and moves through them (“Interstate Cities” might be the best, if yr the type who looks for a best). And all that doesn’t come close to how the book, in the end, makes you feel: there’s no way to read this book without, by its end, wondering about ingredients—for ideal cities, for ideal selves, ideal days. Read now.
Honestly? I’d rather not talk about the what of this book. This is dangerous territory, somewhat: like Kristina Born’s One Hour of Television, Spivey’s Flowing is a sentence-driven machine (or, larger, a language-driven one), which is fine, but that also means plot and other aspects are stuffed, gagged, trunked. Maybe not are but can be. Is it a problem? It could be a problem (a note: I’m coming to this review having met with a student yesterday who announced “the goal for the week is to write a story with a plot.”)
Yet Spivey’s Flowing‘s got a plot: there’s Malcolm, a movitvational speaker, whose wife leaves him within the first clutch of pages. It moves out from there, and by out I mean Out, and by from there I mean the plot works toward and with emotional events as narrative events. The reason plot’s in the backseat though, in Flowing? What’ll make you keep turning pages in this are sentences as follows: “Her face was static like a seizure.” Or “The same velvet behind my eyes that granted darkness, a similar feeling as sleep, encased me as I left the city’s limits.” Or “The holes in the home became my mind, or at least an obsession in my mind. The holes in the home became the spaces between myself and my mind. The spaces between love, and a lack of reconnaissance.”
It’s funny: this review makes me sound ambivalent about this. I’m not, entirely, absolutely not ambivalent: Flowing in the Gossamer Fold is one of the richest, most sentence-delicious reads I’ve had in some time. Does it matter that it gets its rocket fuel from word-level work than structural, narrative-level work? It does not matter, at least to this reader, and it shouldn’t to you, either.
As is clear to anyone who reads this site regularly, I’ll read damn near anything about music and/or sound (therefore, too: silence). My experience with Italian American music basically begins with Louis Prima and ends with, I don’t know, Sinatra, or so I thought: the reason to pick up Rotella’s incredibly engaging and quick-to-plow-through Amore is that, much like the blues, Italian music laced and laces through much of the music made and loved in the US after, say, the 30′s. I’d never once thought about “Runaround Sue” as having anything to do with Italian music, for instance. Plus, even for us Sinatra-loving dudes who believe we’ve read about all there is to read about the man and the voice and etc., it’s worth reading Amore simply for the fact that Rotella, aside from breezing confident and good through the music writing, does an exceptional job articulating exactly what Italian music means. That’s a loaded phrase, what Italian music means, and it’d be stupidly cruel of me to say anything other than this: Rotella’s where to begin if that phrase interests you, even remotely.