The sextets of blank verse running through Console’s text are trios of stanzas carefully placed for the harmonic cadence of words rubbing, grafting each other’s surface close enough to feel the rough decay of pastoral. The text starts with a refrain of “Downrange”, an aural echo of the American frontier through a mention of ‘pistol’, and a few lines later, ‘his skull’. Violence in the first stanza is jarred, in the traditional sense by romantic elements of ‘garment’, ‘water / Passing consistently among the rushes’, and ‘the bank’ (6).
These juxtapositions are strategically set to delve a gap, a literal in-between of language and intimacy where Tony is embedded in the name Anthony. The gaps form spherical objects abound with the use of moon, ‘blow kisses through the ragged keyholes’, and the woman ‘Zero’, whom they have been both involved with. These spheres lead to a longing, or rather a harsh truth both characters feel for their society: “Doing fine despite their being dead / To him by signs given immutable / Autistic power of signification” (8).
The text turns on this longing, a past sadness, and creates another gap through a presence of desire. Desire for the speaker, unlike society, is mutable: “Though the water and the clay whose curve / The slipping water’s suppleness retained” (9). It can become a metaphor for Providence, or a streak in aniline, an organic compound. Here, the text makes desire a literal recombinant language with the mention of ‘expletive’, ‘rhyme’, ‘assonance’, monosyllable’, ‘ligature’ and ‘ampersand’. The speaker imagines the relationship, gap between the two through placing of stresses and syllables, giving specific images or adjectives more weight than others.
Console’s poetry is erudite to say the least, and at times his minute detail for placement of iamb, anapest or dactyl wears on even an astute reader of poetry. He received a doctorate in creative writing from Kansas University, a lauded accolade for any poet, but extensive, comprehensive knowledge wrenches a crux, at times, in the lighter clichés through Ok Tony. “Spit it out. / Here is my handle. / Here is my spout” (9), at the end of a stanza lessens its heavy tone with a sour taste of nursery rhyme. Later, the speaker says, “Tony is a little boy that lives / In my mouth, among the candy shards” (11), which again dilutes poetic value by drawing a reader back to Danny’s altar ego in The Shining.
Although lines at times tend to drag along, the gap developed by the sphere recurs in lines, “Mouths and noses weeping thickened water / to lubricate those trembling machines,” leading back to Convent Garden, and a mention of John Moses Browning, the firearms designer, with a previous line, “Outstretched metal won the West” (16). The speaker’s imaginative construct of a pastoral wholly embedded in subtle flickers of images, places and history notes an alternative reality to one where the pastoral is abused as an object, like a firearm against others. Writers like Mr. Console and Megan Kaminski, are brewing something in Kansas about a new pastoral gnashing with urban America.
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Matt Pincus was born and raised in San Diego, CA. He received his B.A. from Pitzer College in English and World Literature and is an M.F.A. Candidate at Naropa University’s Writing and Poetics program. He has recently reviewed for Bombay Gin and PANK magazine.