EILEEN TABIOS Engages
MAY APPLE DEEP by Michael Sikkema
(Horse Less Press, Providence, RI, 2012)
Well, wow. I almost ignored this chap by Michael Sikkema. It was sort of a stray order from that "bare-bones" but MIGHTY publisher, Horse Less Press. But I vaguely recall some poems I'd read before by Sikkema and their effect made me sufficiently curious to order MAY APPLE DEEP. No regrets. In fact, I really really like this chap ....
... which is a chap-length poem that begins invitingly by catching your attention with its attention:
Begin with tresspass
to get anywhere
ripe in the first place
I guess this poem might be classified as postmodern pastoral—a lot of folks seem to be writing such nowadays. Sikkema’s does it with verve, wit and a fabulous ear.
The music, especially, is worth nota bene-ing. This is accomplished by purity—a word with baggage, I know, but which I can’t help but choose to describe how there is no single unnecessary word in the entire poem. Combined with its line-breaks, the read becomes a rhythm. Here’s an excerpt:
Sometimes I’m the wrong animal is all.
In the petroglyphs
on the rocks
there’s an archer always
and some half-human
Here there is me
out continuities. I started
the floors were
mustard, a handful
of powerful outlaws
had a lasting effect
on men’s hairstyles.
Sikkema’s juxtapositions of nature and man’s effects are fresh, as fresh as the collaged images (not sure if they’re collages but they look like collages) on the front and back covers. On the front cover, a gun, an alligator, a strawberry and either a teapot or soup tureen combine to create its own creature. On the back, a grenade is affixed to a palm tree, looking as natural there as the coconuts that used to hang there. Both results offer believable new creatures, in the same way that Sikkema’s poem hangs together despite a wide disparity of references ranging over “a skillet full of gravel” to “albino senators.” It works so deftly, and this excerpt perhaps captures something about the poem’s underlying infrastructure:
With a fine address for a hermit
and a live feed, this
mud bog pastoral
has a gangsta
and later, pretty
with no working head
lights to deal it out.
So there’s music (soundtrack), a fine musculature throughout (gangsta) but what’s the light? Ahhh. Well, the poet is a philosopher, too. This ain’t just a walk through a swamp in Michigan. How about this line:
…any finished work that points at the unfinished
Or the excerpt above that begins the poem? Philosophy—like poetry—can effect change, certainly change a reader’s mindset. The poem, on its first page, asks,
Can you tell that story soit changes something
Usually, in reading I’m focused on how the words change me, the reader. Here, the poem’s persona is so strong you feel the persona/poet changing as the poem unfolds. Like the observed affecting the observer. It’s a testament to how deeply the poet went to create this poem, even more impressive given the author’s note at the back that he “believes in a trickster poetics of trance and chance and/or telling it how it is.”
The experience of MAY APPLE DEEP was unexpected but totally welcome for its deeply satisfying read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. But she is pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books. the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA, a collaboration with j/j hastain, is reviewed by Joey Madia at New Mystics Review; Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field 6; and Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene. She also just released a new poetry collection, 5 Shades of Gray (i.e. press, Florida, 2012).