about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.

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Broken Cage
A Review of Broken Cage
by Joseph P. Wood

Spencer Dew



In some pieces here, Wood remixes the concept of the triolet, only, instead of recycling lines, he reweaves new lines from the same key words, giving us poems with a sense of interior collage, a scrambling dynamic, leaving the phrasing feeling alive, writhing, from “Pointless not fucking you—the sun asks its course,” to, lines later, “of pointless asking—not the sun—our fucking—coarse,” and “on by the pointless sun—fucking you ask our course—” a sizzling of shifting panels, like tarot cards shuffled across a surface, face-up under circling palms. “A verb is born—and will leave—my tongue / is not the subject,” yet lingua as alternately exploratory, intimate, and babbling are all core to the concept here, tongue as something that worries a loose tooth, licks a lover’s crevices, and speaks raw spirit in a rush of esoteric syllables.

The triolet isn’t Wood’s only project here. The title piece takes a crack at Trinitarian logic, and the next poem, “Gutter Catholic Love Song,” is an effervescence of language, compact like some radioactive isotope standing in for a halo, swinging quick from flights of fantastic imagery to the clipped and pasted vernacular, from “a shoreline along the ocean’s onerous acreage of doubt, where / macaws on laxatives, aiming coconut-sized shits, capsize any ambitious / boats of yeomen” to “Don’t tase me bro! as every cathedral on every planet / catches fire, their wine left unsubstantiated & stinking of yeast infections / a boy-toy believes he can’t contract.” Other poems riff off the lines of others (Merwin, Berryman) or express that existential state of oscillation between corsage and carcass, “poems / which name my breaking // down before I broke” or lines that take a stab at tacking words to the feeling of always falling “like yesterday’s laundry / into the perforated life raft.” In truth, “It’s tough to be a leaf, visible veins.” In these pages, you can feel it, and feel those veins pelted by rain so hard it ricochets, words pinballing wild and sharp, “like scissors through gift-wrap.”

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