by Joel Brouwer
Four Way Books, 2009
88 pages / $15.95 buy from Four Way Books
1. And So was published in 2009, and so I’m reviewing it now, in 2012.
2. There’s always a time lapse in reading; and so we are all the silhouettes of each other’s ideas of fireflies.
3. Except: we aren’t all silhouettes of each other’s ideas of fireflies. Sometimes we cease to be apart and begin to be together in a way that is (and is not) like a dump cake. It is as Brouwer writes in “In a Motel Halfway to Omaha”: “At dawn she said she had to go to work and he / said not until I do it to you again slut / and she said ok whatever bad man and so” we go on with our dump cake selves.
4. People exist; people have sex. There are people in And So and so they have sex. A lot.
5. If And So were an album, it would be less Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On and more Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. And So is not a long title, and so it’s easier to say—which is more important than many things (like shallots).
6. And So is intimately concerned with its use of language, and so am I.
7. The cover art of And So is, to my mind, a series of frames, a series of ways of looking at things (read: people, relationships, the Mona Lisa). I am bothered by our inability to escape from frames, and so the cover art disturbs me.
8. As I break these thoughts to twenty-five pieces—as I frame them—I am wary of: the need for this review; the time that has elapsed between the publishing of this book and the writing of this review; the need for this form for this review; my place in this review; the book’s place in this review; if this review is actually even a review, or if it is a personal essay, co-opting this strange and lovely book of Brouwer’s for its (my) own purpose. I am wary, and so I do what I always do when I am wary: I tell you.
9. But if this were a personal essay, wouldn’t I tell you about my mother, her schizophrenia? I’m not telling you, and so it can’t be a personal essay.
10. But now I’ve told you, and so it must be. Perhaps it always is/was.
11. Jean Valentine says, of And So, that “these poems hold on for dear life to the observed and imagined world, no matter how abandoned.” That’s my emphasis. I emphasize because I wonder if a poem can be abandoned; I look at this book and think: of course a poem can be abandoned, here are the orphan poems, here they are, I can sponsor an abandoned poem for only 5, 10, 50 cents a day; and so I suppose Valentine is right.
12. When I thought I was an artist, it was suggested that I build a wooden frame—a frame that I would physically hold up to nature. The idea was that I would see the world more clearly in miniature, that I would cease to see it as the world and start to see it as my art. Then I realized I wasn’t an artist at all, and so I never built the frame. But And So has those frames (see: point #7): each poem a circumscription, a magnification. Each poem a symphony for the detail.
13. The phrase “And So” asks us to read this book narratively, like a geometric proof. The first poem, and so the second poem, and so the third poem, and so etc. etc. etc. But it exists also as a qualification of itself, as if Brouwer is saying: “I wrote a book of poems” and we are asked to respond: “And so…what?”
14. (And so we clap and clap and clap but the house lights never come in the concert hall and eventually all the musicians have loosened their bows, emptied their spit valves, packed; the stage has been struck, mopped, and we are clapping and clapping and waiting for the lights and they never come on and so we just sleep in our chairs for the rest of forever.)
15. Matthea Harvey says, of And So, that “its despairing characters are alone even when in a pair.” When reading, we’re always alone (even when in pairs) and so poetry must be the best medium for the lonesome. Poetry, and country music.
16. Matthea Harvey blurbs every book of poetry, and so she blurbs this book of poetry.
17. These poems don’t make me ask: “What is a poem?” They aren’t that type of poem. These poems make me ask: “If I go to sleep now—if I lay down my weary head—will I raise it up later?” And that asking is scary, and it hurts, and it gets into my bloodstream like caffeine or heroin; it gets into my bloodstream, and so this book is, in a way, a suppository of poetry.
18. Sometimes we expect great things; sometimes we don’t. Always we are forgetting about the lego-blocks of language in our lungs, and so, as Brouwer says, “nothing had happened, nothing was going / to happen, and nothing was happening.” There was a cognitive leap there and I’m not sure it landed on the fairway.
19. I wonder if this review has an arc, if you can follow it, if there’s a story here, if (see: point #8) this is even a review, if its jumping like a fountain, jumping like someone saving the princess. I wonder if it’s my fault that we’re all going down: “And so the fault / was mutual and boundless” says Brouwer, but (see: the great history of aesthetic theory) I think that might be a beautiful lie; and so I despair/rejoice. I can’t tell the difference.
20. These poems are great whirlpools, elliptical elisions of man/woman, true/false, poem/poem. They are high in fiber and sweetened with natural flavors. You want to keep holding on to them, because if you don’t you’re afraid you might break; and so you do. You just keep holding.
21. “The spell had to be pronounced perfectly to accomplish the magic.” And so he did, Brouwer. He pronounced it, each syllable resounding. You’ll be the echo chamber and I’ll be the gong: let’s do this.
22. Of course this isn’t a review. Even a review is not a review. Everything’s a re-seeing, sure. But show me a real review “And I will show you something different from either / Your shadow at morning striding behind you / Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you.” This isn’t Brouwer, of course. But take his epigraph from Brecht: “The new meat is eaten with the old forks” (or “forms” which I typed first but had a chance to change, for which I am thankful), and then maybe Eliot is Brouwer, or Brouwer is Eliot, or none of us are really reviewing anything at all. And so we continue.
23. Quiz Question: This book is a reformulation of Greek tragedy in the form of a linking (is it linking?) series of poems, and so there is a tragic fall. Discuss.
24. I wanted to cry, I wanted to fill a lake with my tears, but Brouwer said: “Please, don’t cry. Talk is only architecture” and so I didn’t.
25. And so: that the knowledge that dooms a reading of this book is the knowledge prerequisite to a reading of this book, the review has nothing further to report.