A Horse with Holes in It (Review Series)
Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate. Here’s the latest.
Poetry of Visions
A Horse with Holes in It
by Greg Alan Brownderville
Biblical visions, for all their bewildering oddity—Ezekiel’s wheels, Isaiah’s live coal to the lips—can carry a realer-than-real-life quality. A cover tears away; everything sharpens. If you’re drawn to that cocktail of wonder and fear, read Greg Alan Brownderville’s newest poetry collection A Horse with Holes in It, in which every poem summons a jolted-to-attention quality. Find here a man building an altar of aquariums for a “spirit wife” named Easy Lee; the sacrifice of 5,000 red-wing blackbirds; a “black-and-gold sweater” that “gave me the power of bumble flight;” an experimental art project involving body shots off a mannequin Eurydice. Pieces of Brownderville’s childhood world—Arkansas earth, Pentecostal church—burn like flecks of red pepper through these poems, but so too do allusions to Georges Braque, Parthenon statues, and the goddess Isis. The poet wanders this tense psychic ground between rural South and “Midtown Lounge, the poets’ pub.” In the poem “For Tess, from the Blue Door Tavern, 2010,” the speaker confesses: “In case you wonder what’s become of me: / all of a weird sudden, I’m city-slicked / in mega-world. It’s easy to confuse / Longhorn and crucifix, and hard to feel my life.” But the life and feeling in these poems is heated and immediate and delivered in exquisite language. In “Welcome to the Old Cathedral,” an imaginary conversation with a highbrow restaurant server named Madison, the speaker implores: “Mad, you aren’t listening. / Let’s go seeing. / Let’s go being. / Roads agush with rivery rain. Lady legs ascamper / on the square. Frogs hopping / like tiny sparks of apocalypse.” After thousands of years of skyward-looking poets, you’d think there’s no new way to describe the heavens, but in these poems, we get to see “a cirrus cloud mummify the moon,” “a smear of stars.” “Where did the shamans go,” laments another poem, “the strange men with their drums and dreams?” Some become poets. Brownderville is surely one.
—Reviewed by Jen Hinst-White