What follows is the sixth in J. A. Tylerâ€™s full-press of Subito Press, a series of reviews appearing at [PANK] over the course of 2012, covering every title available from Subito Press. J. A. Tylerâ€™s previous full-press series have appeared at Big Other (a full-press of Calamari Press) and with Mud Luscious Pressâ€™s online quarterly (a full-press of Publishing Genius Press).
Stan Mirâ€™s Song & Glass, Subitoâ€™s 2009 poetry winner, is a solid, enjoyable collection and takes at least two tactical routes that I appreciate and respect, making the book notable to be sure, and certainly worthy of the win in Subitoâ€™s annual competition.
Mir creates most of Song & Glassâ€™s noise via a constant marrying and divorcing of elements, questioning what does and what doesnâ€™t exist, which quickly becomes the thematic focus for the collection as a whole. Mir begins this concept with the title, forcing â€˜songâ€™, an emotional and even spiritual word, with â€˜glassâ€™, a layer of concrete yet see-through and easily shattered existence. This carries into the opening section, â€˜Opposite of Autumnâ€™, where these juxtapositions are modeled in a variety of ways:
It is not yet winter it is
enough to create
snow drifts in the mind
Walking us through a winter that isnâ€™t, yet somehow still accumulates in drifts, Mir sets up to knock down element after element, steadying his poems on readily identifiable metaphors but then crushing those comparisons by negation, questioning, or other means of take-down. And this is how Song & Glass functions in nearly every movement, superimposing the tangible and material with the spiritual or emotional, posing a battle between truth and knowing, wonderfully (and often cleverly) milking the border between paradigms:
across the park the breeze
across the park the asshole
And while this focus on comparisons is not enough to entirely carry Song & Glass as a collection, Mir also makes careful use of another tactic: enjambment and a lack of punctuation, giving us poetry that desperately wants, through its own force of grammar, to be heard:
The faces in the windows
are not petals of a flower
nor those of a bicycle
they are faces paddling
through an afternoon
offset by geometry
The spacing and line breaks remind us how carefully hewn Mirâ€™s poetry is, and that, coupled with the thematic focus on contrasted elements, make Song & Glass an inviting and inventive read that may not blow your mind, but is a noble collection of poetry, and a book clearly deserving of Subitoâ€™s recognition.
Song & Glass is available from Subito Press.
Subito Press is a nonprofit literary publisher based in the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. We look for innovative fiction and poetry that at once reflects and informs the contemporary human condition, and we promote new literary voices as well as work from previously published writers. Subito Press encourages and supports work that challenges already-accepted literary modes and devices.
J. A. Tyler is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection When We Hold Our Hands (Dark Sky Books). His recent work appears with Black Warrior Review, Cream City Review, Redivider, and Diagram, and he reviews for The Nervous Breakdown and The Rumpus among other venues. For more, visit: chokeonthesewords.com.