A Little Bit of Everything, Continued: My Favorite (Mostly Small Press) Poetry Books of 2014


Zachary Schomburg, The Book of Joshua (Black Ocean Press)
Getting Carried Away, or Eighteen Things about The Book of Joshua

1.       Zachary Schomburg’s weirdly dark debut The Man Suit put Black Ocean Press on the map with an engaging, sincere, childlike devotion to the imagination and dreams’ (and nightmares’) vivid realities. Schomburg has continued developing raw, tender journeys through, then past, sense and innocence, which for me recall the carefully constructed coming-of-age storybook films of Wes Anderson.
2.       The Book of Joshua is Zachary Schomburg’s fourth publication with Black Ocean. The ongoing relationship between poet and publisher is a match made in a book lover’s haven. With each new title, Schomburg’s and publisher Janaka Stucky’s aesthetic continue to inter-twingle (ok, not a word) in uniquely beautiful “third book mind” ways.
3.       Physically, this is a gorgeous object to hold. Joshua’s limited first edition is clothbound with a textured scarlet cover, white inlaid lettering and blue stain trim. Its slender shape recalls some mysterious childhood storybook found in the corner of a dusty library, left tottering on the edge of a just-low-enough-to-reach bookcase, which makes a reader wonder, did this book even exist before I discovered it? It welcomes you into an intimate, cosmic mystery, makes you feel it’s been created by and just for you.
4.       The narrator – Joshua? Not Joshua? Joshua-but-not-Joshua speaking to a maybe-imaginary friend, ghost, or departed sibling? – tips in and out of control of interior/exterior surroundings, like childhood, or like how a childhood dream careens between idyllic fantasy and terrifying nightmare. Buried within these lines, I felt a struggling rewind back into adolescent metamorphoses – the development of the self through senses, self-consciousness, memory, acknowledgment of the other, guilt, shame, grief, and release through imagination and dreams.
5.       Joshuais divided into three sections: EARTH – MARS – BLOOD. The first two sections are paragraph-length prose poems, progressing sequentially between the years 1977 and 2044.
6.       At the Cambridge book-launch release earlier this year, Zachary revealed that he was born in 1977. Inevitably, 2044 being the year he thinks he is going to die. So the book is structured, terrestrially, like a life.
7.       Knowing this was an enjoyable and inevitable guide for my own entrance into the book’s narrative, tracing my own memories of childhood into adulthood…
8.       Around the time a child might take their first step, Joshua writes “When I moved my arms and when I walked forward or backward or sideways, I knocked many birds to the frozen ground and then stepped on them and crushed their hollow bones.”
9.       Around the time a child might form their first sentence, Joshua writes “I slept like a million broken accordions.”
10.   Around the time a child might begin school, Joshua writes “I was scared to finally see you. To see you for the first time was to see myself for the first time.”
11.   Around the time a young person might experience death for the first time, there is an empty page beneath the year, “1989.”
12.   Around the time an adolescent might develop their first crush, Joshua writes “And then growing from its middle came my own unforgivableness, an impossibly beautiful strawberry patch to feed me forever.”
13.   Around the time a teenager might earn the right to vote, Joshua writes “Every night, I slept on the peeling linoleum in front of the refrigerator. I thought something major would happen. I thought hunger was curable.”
14.   Around the time a young adult might graduate from college or get their first ‘real’ job, Joshua writes “When I touched my own skin it felt like someone else’s father’s.”
15.   Around the time a young adult might quit their first job out of disillusionment, Joshua writes “I couldn’t think of anything else to say, but maybe that is always the best thing, to just ask if anyone is there and maybe then to tell them you’re not scared.”
16.   Around the time the average American adult gets married, Joshua writes “I didn’t feel like living in a thing not shaped like me anymore.”
17.   Around the time the average American adult gets divorced, Joshua writes “There was no bed in the spaceship. I wrapped myself in a blanket and slept sitting up. In space, there is no day and no real direction.”

18.    As everything breaks apart, it’s BLOOD that puts us back together. 

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