Join me as I read through the Oakland Public Library poetry collection.
So this week has not quite gone to plan, and this book is going to be a few days overdue. Whoops. But I’m glad that I finished it and didn’t just turn it back in because I so thoroughly enjoyed Troy Jollimore‘s collection, Earthly Delights.
This is another new book from the library’s collection, and it’s Jollimore’s (1971-) fourth book of poetry. Jollimore is also a philosopher and teaches at California State University, Chico. Although I didn’t know that before reading the collection, it doesn’t surprise me. The collection is meditative and playful, especially with themes of leaving and return, such as in the last poem of the collection which is an imagination of Odysseus before he leaves Ithaca. There’s a lot of looking back in the book, but I wouldn’t call it nostalgic. Wistful for the beginnings of things maybe, but not nostalgic in the sense that it believes we can or should return to another time.
The book feels very summery to me. Part of this is the literal mention of summer in several poems, but it’s also a mood, a languid, slow moving rhythm that feels like long summer nights on the porch. It feels ripe, at its peak but also if you pick up some peaches, they may be rotten, such as discussions about our current political state. Here’s a sample of that summery feeling I’m picking up on:
it takes three drinks to make the musicTroy Jollimore from “Landscape with Ambiguous Symbols”
sound the way it’s supposed to sound,
that the taste of the air on summer evenings
is always a little bit bitter,
always a little bit tinged with regret, that this is
your language, your city, and no one but you
can speak it, and no one but you can save it.
Jollimore uses a ton of references–the classic ones are here of course–few collections are complete without mentions of Greek mythology, but beyond those references there is so much discussion of cinema. This takes the form of individual movies, such as a long poem on American Beauty and others on cinema classics that he calls screenshots. I don’t know if there’s a work like ekphrastic (poems about visual artwork) for poems about cinema, but it’s not a true ekphrasis in that it’s not really describing what we see so much as capturing some of the mood or a philosophical question the film delves into. For example, Jollimore delves into questions of identity in his poem about the film Being John Malkovich:
Being John Malkovich, John Malkovich
was pretty much the inevitable choice
to play the character ‘John Malkovich.’
Who else could imitate that wheedling voice,
the very question that the film itself
forces us to confront is, who am ITroy Jollimore, from “Screenshots: Being John Malkovich”
when someone else lives through me?…
So the philosopher definitely comes through here–the film brings up questions, but the poem does not concern itself with answering the questions. Rather the poems (and this can be said about poetry throughout the book) rephrase the questions in really moving, insightful ways. Because of this the book feels intellectually rather than emotionally moving, and it’s clever without resorting to barbs.
I am excited to pick up a copy of this collection and start making notes in it. There’s so much to pick apart in this book, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. This is definitely a book to reread.