Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wilkinson, Joshua Marie. The Book of Truants & Projectorlight. Lincoln, NE: Octopus Books, 2006.

In “what you wish to return to will not leave you unmarked,” the opening prose poem of Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s chapbook The Book of Truants & Projectorlight, the reader is told: “What you forget is up to you…What you lose cannot be recovered if the light is wrong.” Within these statements we hear the echo of Breton, when he writes that the waking-state is “a phenomenon of interference” where the mind displays “a strange tendency to lose its bearings.” Wilkinson’s poems, to a great extent, exemplify the strange world between waking and dreaming, where one’s bearings become lost in a world where reality and fantasy coexist in a perpetual field of interaction. Take, for instance, “the diamond cutter speaks.” Within this poem we find the speaker’s material body, a tangible reality; but the body transforms in some curious ways, such as: “I have to ask him for something but my teeth turn to dust. Clocks of five cities crashed in my chest with their ticking.” The first section of the book, bearing the same name as that of the collection, proceeds in a similar fashion throughout the course of five prose poems, culminating with the line: “I know the sounds you make sleeping & arriving alike.” The sounds of sleeping and the sounds of arriving, or waking, permeate these poems, constructing a surreal world of and from language that is littered with strange characters, animals, and a variety of lights: the “garage light,” “dusk light,” and “copper light.” The question, then, becomes: of these lights, what is the correct light in which one can recover what was lost in a dream?

Section two, or The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth, approaches the search for the forgotten in slightly different manner. Instead of the prose poem, fragments scatter themselves about in a seemingly random manner. If readers intend to develop a narrative (which is by no means a requirement), they must partake in free association between the disparate elements of each fragment. What is the relationship between “Translucent wings in the grey soup” and a “Rowboat of/white//flour & beetles”? No doubt, a multiplicity of connections can be made between these fragmentary-images, but it would appear that the one strand connecting them all is that they need be ethereal, upending reality; or, as Wilkinson writes: “you can unlearn the earth’s/ spinning//if you//lie down on your back/in the goatfield.” It would appear, then, that to “unlearn” the material-empirical world is of utmost importance.

But, as mentioned earlier, this is not simple negation of the aforementioned material-empirical world, but an admixture of reality and dream. Highlighting such an admixture is the collection’s rhythm. Yeats once wrote that the “purpose of rhythm…is to prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment of creation, by hushing us with an alluring monotony, while it holds us waking by variety, to keep us in that state of perhaps real trance, in which the mind liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded.” The “variety” of section two acts as a counterpoint to the “alluring monotony” of section one’s prose rhythms. Take, for instance, the following lines:
Shaker chairs. The
morning pulling, un-
packing itself onto
snowy porches &
a spun ice.
The enjambment found within these stanzas, with lines breaking on articles, prefixes, and prepositions, disrupts the rhythmic flow of each syntactical unit, fostering a vocalization that causes the reader to abruptly stammer. Yet, just as soon as the fragments awake us, a return to the prose fluidity of section three lulls us back into a dream.

In the final section’s poem, “still life with shark tooth, sleeping boy, moon [missing], & treefrog,” there is a series of rhetorical questions that conclude the piece: “Where are your parents, little one? Where is the lodger who promised you things? Where is that treefrog in the shop window that blinked at you? Where are you headed on this boat? Which way is the engine room? What age will you be when you return?” The dizzying array of questions, most of which provide no specific referent with regard to the content therein, need to be re-constructed by the reader. This, of course, is no easy task; in fact, in the chapbook’s closing poem we are told: “You will find out what trouble means when you build your own road.” The “trouble,” it would seem, stems from our tendency to subsume surreal worlds into the logic of reason; to wit, Breton wrote: “logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest.” When working through Wilkinson’s writing, “logical ends…escape us.” Instead of a logical-analytical-empirical paradigm, perhaps then, it is best to for us to follow the dream-examples found within the book, such as the man who:
this bridge you are forced
without words
               to cross.

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