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Home > Book Reviews > Peter Joseph Gloviczki—From Contorted Ars Poeticas to the Funny Banal and Back

Peter Joseph Gloviczki—From Contorted Ars Poeticas to the Funny Banal and Back

 

“And what will the ricochet/ of my ankle be worth […] this bony puzzle/ in the window doubling,/ now, as a mirror: the person/ I was before I kicked gravity/ hard in the abdomen.  Laugh,/ babe, that’s what you told me […]

… those taller/ versions of yourself when they/ appear between the boundaries/ of what that old architect let in/ when he said: Put it here,/ yes, that’s it, now we’re home.”

These are excerpts from the intriguing opening poem, “Door,” from Peter Joseph Gloviczki’s Kicking Gravity.  The architecture of the poem (and of the book) is thus laid down by an “old” architect—most likely of form and tradition that draws boundaries and gives directions—in this poem.  He’s not the only character in the poem though—“babe/you” is another one who actually speaks when we think the speaker does, since when half way through the poem, when we believe we just heard the (indeed) contorted lyrical confession of the speaker, we find out it (or at least part of it) is actually what that “you” answered the speaker when the latter asked for advice regarding dealing with the former’s “taller versions”.  This is self-referential and it develops an (at least apparently) complex allegory of the writing of a poem involving deceitful rhetoric, recurrent indeterminacy (“what will it be worth,” “what you told me,” “what the architect let in,” etc.) and masterful enjambment.

The few following prose poems that follow are far from being that complicated though.  It is as if after expelling the “taller versions [expectations?]” of the reader, the poet relaxed and started telling anecdotes from his childhood, about an aunt “we” like to call “Lefty,” and soft-surrealist Simickian mixes of blurry memories, oneiric fears or eroticism, and submerged personal mythologies—

Sara taught me where all the doors where; I loved the ones inside her elbows.  I learned how to open those first; how they connected to other openings in her body, wired one to another like a burglar alarm (“Wired”),

but unlike the Serbian-American master, he either overdoes it by adding unnecessary ‘strong surprises’, or dismisses any possible richer meaning by settling either for a sentimental conclusion or a joke.

The prose poems in the first section are interrupted by a funny and captivating “Sonnet for Anne” written after Stephen Dobyn’s “How to Like It”—

… to make Anne

blush.  Her cheeks become cherries: fresh, ripe Bing,

the kind that would have been painted by Rembrandt.

Anne turns that cold Pepsi to sweet Riesling.

She sends Catholic school girls into a jealous rant.

 

One would picture the poet’s imaginary audience hollering and asking for more, but Gloviczki prefers to go back to the less appealing puzzling prose pieces.

The second section seems to start off the same kind of scenario as the first one, a first rather twisted abstract poem, a possible ars poetica (“(i) can’t stand” “the mechanisms which facilitate hands opening and closing […]” etc) followed by a couple of seemingly biographical notations, but then a couple of sparse poems with scattered short lines fortunately change the pace.  “The Tornado Sequence” captures well the experience of potentially devastating weather by stitching together apparently unrelated fragments, thus suggestive of the effects of a tornado—“the guy whose tractor/ trapped him,/ the woman thrown against her fence./ I bought a lottery ticket, he [the speaker’s brother] says,/ on my drive home” which unfortunately the author chooses to spoil (in this one once again?) with a flat joke: “I’ve been fooled by light before,/ never by wind—/ even my best chair failed me” (as above, the poet’s emphasis here as well).

Gloviczki’s travel poems, which are praised in one of the blurbs for their “listening with a journalist’s ear” are not travel poems.  But unlike in A.L. Nielsen’s Ghana or Kansas sequences where there is no ‘travel poetry’ because the genre along with certain capital assumptions in modern poetics are challenged and reshaped in remarkably relevant ways, here what we get is scenes and/or reflections that hardly have any relevance or efficacy in describing (let alone enacting) a relationship between a problematic speaker and the elusive alterity of a place or community.  The bad English of a cab driver, for instance, who takes a circuitous route most likely in order to rip off a speaker who doesn’t resist because of his stomach flu hardly tells us anything interesting about the latter’s experience of visiting Budapest.

In the third section, some more family poems draw a few good sketchy portraits or scenes, while certain images successfully circumscribe unclear but persistently haunting events from the past.  In “Breakfast,” for instance, the speaker’s mother apparently thinks the former could have but did not prevent somebody’s death.  She then sets a knife on the table and starts spinning it “with a sure hand.”  A number of ‘advice’ or ‘instruction’ poems are both funny and convincing.  In one addressed to (or spoken by?) a groundskeeper, the various thoughts, pieces of advice, and everyday tidbits make room, at a certain point, to the surprise of a couple of very good lines taking some unexpected turns: “Sure,/ the evening light always visits and windy doors know to slam shut./ Love, write my number on your hand./ Call me with my digits against your flesh.”

[Peter Joseph Gloviczki. Kicking Gravity. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland: Salmon Poetry, 2013]

—MARGENTO

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