The Book of Funnels
Christian Hawkey
Verse Press, $13 (paper)

All but one of the six sections of Christian Hawkey’s panoramic debut are marked off by a bold, black X situated slightly above center on an otherwise blank page. At the risk of reading too much into a design decision that may or may not have been Hawkey’s own, these Xs suggest appropriately beguiling site markers for this odd and adventurous book. Like cairns in a shifting poetic terrain, these small you-are-heres plant you, the reader, gently yet firmly in his strange and indeterminate landscapes, inviting you to wander through them. Frequently, Hawkey’s lines themselves are loose, his long sentences unabashedly run-on and meandering, as in the opening piece, “The Isle of Monapia,” resulting in the poetic equivalent of a hike through striking and uncharted (perhaps enchanted) territories. His titles underscore his interest in vistas both internal and external: “I Return to the O’s in Oblivion,” for instance, as well as “Slow Waltz Through Inflatable Landscape” and “The Art of Navigating in the Air.” Hawkey writes wonderfully of experiences both synesthetic and puzzling. “Hosannas for the Tatterdemalions,” for example, begins, “I was just standing there when it / reached out and bit me. My taste buds / went deaf,” then roams fluidly from “the banks of the Ganges” to “the corner of East Main and Plum Tree” before ending up “past the Indefatigable Islands, / inhabited by the Indefatigable Ones.” Simultaneously funny and eerie, Hawkey evokes feelings of giddy anticipation and anxious foreboding, as typified by “Green Solitude,” which begins, “No such thing as exit for the man lost / In the middle of a cornfield. / No such thing as field,” and which ends, “the sound / Of his listening was the landscape / Advancing at his approach.” Like the best possible vacation or voyage, The Book of Funnels appeals to the reader as explorer, presenting the promise of surprise and discovery.