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As in Every Deafness
by Graham Foust
Flood Editions, $13 (paper)
It may be that the most difficult poetic form isn’t the sestina or the rondeau redoublé but a modernist, free-verse form commonly known as the “skinny” poem: three-, two-, and often one-word lines expose the poet’s every gesture. With the 50 poems in his debut collection, Graham Foust swiftly takes a seat alongside a handful of others (including William Carlos Williams, the form’s originator; Robert Creeley; and the late Larry Eigner) as a master of that most minimalist, no-place-to-hide form. Here, in its entirety, is Foust’s “Night Train”: “creased, the darkness seems / exactly // the same— // someone / in one of those houses // is you.” Yet for all their economy, the largesse of these frequently rhyming, expertly paced poems accommodates the great themes of the human condition, from love (“One day love / is mere / manipulation. / . . . On another day love / is purely possession”) to death (“Bury me / up to my kite”; “You look / as if I haven’t seen a ghost”) and the complexities of time (“Tomorrow is the newer / of two ruins”; “give this scream / time”). Allusions to addiction and addicts throughout lend the collection grit and gravitas, but their autobiographical relevance is somewhat beside the fact—what do any of our desperately craved, quick-fix commodities deliver in the end if not a kind of narcosis? (“Welcome, autumn / to my room / of empty things.”) Foust’s brutally elegant condensation distills a sore, sensitive intensity rather than a Reader’s Digest–style abridgment. Our age of the sound bite has its own logic, its own snap judgments and damnations, and with As in Every Deafness, Foust emerges as the dangerous, tight-lipped Milton of that world-weary downfall: “Knives / from a child // are not as beautiful / to pull.” He goes straight to the point.
Jeffrey Jullich is the author of Portrait of Colon Dash Parenthesis and Thine Instead Thank. He has been published in New American Writing, Poetry, Shiny, Spoon River, and VeRT among others.
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