In Case of Sudden Free Fall. Deborah Bogen. Jacar Press. Durham, North Carolina. 2017.
"the sun rises like a guillotine"
- Deborah Bogen
Deborah Bogen's poems have a distinct hum to them and Today's book of poetry fears we will never get the description of it quite right. It's like these perfectly modern little prose poems are clever disguises for the epic movies underneath. You can hear the poetry machine hum golden as though a soundtrack were about to burst through. And Bogen's movies are a gas.
Today's book of poetry has all the time in the world for Bogen's type of clever. In Case of Sudden Free Fall has a cast of guest stars that runs from Vincent Van Gogh to Charles Dickens, Jean-Paul Sartre to Baudelaire and so on. Bogen works these cultural iconic celebrities right into her narrative as though they were there all along.
Bogen has one of those technicolour pens and as a result these little movies appear in vivid colour. Bogen's subtle twists on/of language had me working my way backwards to track her careful steps. In Case of Sudden Free Fall bursts with unassuming intelligence and confident logic. Today's book of poetry likes how Bogen navigates.
Looking at Guernica
I'm thinking in terms of stage props, rubber knives and
plausible explanations. You say I should relax, take an as-
pirin, make some coffee, but where-oh-where, old friend,
are the shield-walls for our hearts? These days, these ter-
rible days, you tell me are only warnings, but we've both
seen Guernica. Chaos is a wild-eyed bull standing over a
dead child and Christians or no-Christians the messiah
So we walk to the cemetery, to look at all the old-timey
names on the monuments. Did you know, I say, that in-
scribed is just another word for cut?
Today's book of poetry would be out of line with my own cosmic forces and make-up if we didn't mention that In Case of Sudden Free Fall has a poem where "Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt make things right." If you don't know the two Sonnys stop reading this and look them up. Respect.
Deborah Bogen drops jazz musicians and painters into her landscapes and soundtracks to great affect. She uses these characters as a cultural shorthand, she knows the emotion generated by the charged names of the famous. How when we hear the name of William Turner we cannot help but think of the sea, the sea-scape and the unknowable chorus of clouds. Bogen knows that we readers are pre-conditioned and sends us through to her clever manipulations like Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. It is no cause for alarm, our appetite whetted, we gulp it down like smiling pups on a juicy bone.
How-to For the Daughters of Suicides
First of all. Be Fine. They want you to. Fix your face,
brush your hair, say I'm fine, thanks, fine. And in a way,
it's true. Because now you don't care what you eat, when
you eat, if you eat. You don't care how you look. Or what
you think. You don't think. And that's weirdly swell. Like
lidocaine. Or being made of chrome.
Tomorrow a long dark car will take you to the cemetery.
Wear a plain black dress, or dark blue if you only have
that. Later, you must contend with the women who bring
casseroles, but otherwise you can relax. Remember, the
body must inhabit this space, but there's nowhere your
mind has to be.
Today's book of poetry's morning read was interrupted by the delivery of a parcel from our St. Louis correspondent David Clewell. The entire staff danced around the box in anticipation and the Twangster did not let us down. Once again, Mr. Clewell has brought holiday cheer to a new season. This particular reading assignment included Lynn Emanuel, David Kirby, Campbell McGrath and Albert Goldbarth. We still don't believe in God or heaven here at Today's book of poetry but we're pretty sure the Twangster is a poetry monster angel. Today's book of poetry is very thankful that he is out there monitoring the poetry ether.
To get back to the matter at hand, Deborah Bogen's poetry has pace, In Case of Sudden Free Fall rolls steady as a train. Today's book of poetry was completely in Bogen world for this most pleasant journey, dark corners and all, because she allows the reader such easy access, decorates the path she wants followed. Even with the occasional sad destination these poems make you open your happy eyes just a little wider.
In Case of Sudden Free Fall
You can put it in your pocket, in your tire well, in your
armpit. You can stash it under your baseball cap, or wrap
it up in a handkerchief. You can stuff it in your under-
wear or hide it in your brand new pigskin wallet. You
can slip it under your armband, or bury it in the desert
or whisper it into your cell phone. You can smooth it out
and cut it up with little scissors. Or you can fold it. Care-
fully. Like money.
In Case of Sudden Free Fall is Deborah Bogen's fourth book of poetry and it shows. This is polished, old hand in the kitchen, stuff. Bogen teems with charming wisdom. Bogen's hum will convince.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Bogen is a poet and novelist. In Case of Sudden Free Fall is her fourth collection. Her three previous collections of poetry are Living By the Children's Cemetery, Landscape with Silos (National Poetry Series Finalist and winner of the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize) and Let Me Open You a Swan (Antivenom Press, Elixir Press). She was the winner of the 2016 New Letters Prize for Poetry for "My Stint as a Librarian & Other Poems." She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
BLURBS“Grown-up poems for grown-ups.”
— Stuart Friebert
“I loved reading In Case of Sudden Free Fall, Deborah Bogen’s beautiful and remarkable oneiric prose poem collection. A delicious gem, it takes the reader on a soulful and transformative journey. Under Bogen’s expert guidance, we travel from enchantment to melancholy, to surprising encounters with literary and artistic figures, to loss and death, and back to wonder. I’ll keep revisiting this collection time and again.”
— Hélène Cardona
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