Last weekend, I read with Oliver de la Paz and picked up a copy of his new collection, Post Subject: A Fable, from The University of Akron Press. I went home to a quiet house and immediately entered the realm of these epistolary prose poems addressed to an Empire that sometimes seems like a dictator and sometimes an entire dominion. A place with battlefields and docks and meadows and salt flats and asylums and processions–a vast world, peopled with aerialists and bondsmen, idolaters and phantoms, and the recurring images of the artist, her son, the dancer, and the jellyfish. A world that is imaginary and yet not. A feeling that this is altogether familiar, that all of it has happened somewhere, sometime, and is going on right now.
Evoking Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (which Oliver mentioned during the reading), these are poems of witness, poems of regret–each in a detached voice, with occasional twinges, as though the speaker does not want to directly expose his emotions, but sometimes they escape.
Several of these poems are online, although I recommend the sweeping scope, the immersion, of the full collection. For a start, here is Dear Empire, [These are your salt flats].