15 April 2012

Sons and Followers

The fact that Matthew Klane's chapbook Sons and Followers (Self-Published, 2009) praises a “mawky wormbent / whiskey babble” and focuses on men “yammering animal / hosannas” might lead readers to believe that the speaker of these poems embraces an uncouth and primal use of language; such an assumption, though, would be anything but the case. In fact, the poems within this collection challenge us to abide by a strict imperative:
Build your speech
piece by piece.
Be precise—
Be deliberate—
the mortices,
your force-of-habit.
In other words, this first stanza of the poem “Beecher's Bible” asks us to construct a specific linguistic system that, through an overtly conscious engagement with its component parts, produces a well-wrought end-product. The importance of these instructions cannot be undervalued, and the collection repeats the message in varying forms from poem to poem. Whether addressing a poet's need to direct the rhythms of a poem via the metaphor of the horse and wagon:
The hollow clop of
the whip
the wagon.
Or the use of a particular diction via the metaphor of the sheepherder:
we shepherd the words
chattel, dominion, value,
fair sex.
Sons and Followers forwards a belief that while poetry contains a certain “naturalness,” poets must construct, pace, and herd their words within a particular poetic or language usage in order write passages that contain an economical beauty, such as:
sky's the limit, it's
cyan silo's airy cupola,
acres of billowy
Klane's constructivist stance is not limited to his poetics though; it also seems to guide his conceptualization of bookmaking. (Given that he is the editor of Flim Forum Press, it's only natural he would put pressure on the collection's materiality.) The cover of Sons and Followers, for instance, contains no title or author name, merely the image of a vertically-aligned, black rifle in the lower right-hand corner against a lavender background. Such an omission leaves readers absent of some basic information regarding the artifact in their hands. Midway through the collection, the poem “Master Narrative” provides us, perhaps, with the conceptual underpinning of this decision:
Life is
rebellion and retribution.
Rifle the referents,
then, purge definition.
The verb “rifle” reminds us of the pictographic representation of the noun “rifle” printed on the cover, and thus coaxes us into developing a relationship between the two instances. Specifically, the choice to exclude the book's primary identifiers from its front cover acts as a “rebellion” against bookmaking's master narrative, thus robbing (i.e. rifling) the collection of its most elementary “referents,” purging it of self-“definition” and forcing us to rethink the production of the artifact itself.

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