Stephen Cramer‘s The Disintegration Loops comes on the reader in leaps and bounds. Writer of six earlier books of poems and a quantity of translations, and editor of the anthology Flip It Up! Music in Poetry From Jazz to Hip-Hop, Cramer teaches literature and writing on the College of Vermont and lives in Burlington.
For this poet, music is a trigger for celebration.
The e-book’s title poem has a musical genesis, drawing its inspiration from an actual state of affairs on which Cramer then improvised fictionally. In a 14-page sequence in sections, the poet reenacts a composer’s rediscovery of a recording made many years in the past, alternating his narration with observations in a ghostlier voice. When retrieved from a dank basement, the tapes are “already / flaking, the magnetic movie / sifting to the ground like sepia / dandruff.” What had been a fancy acoustic structure is now “shredded” and “peeling,” with gaps widening ultimately into silence.
“Off Minor: Sonnets for Thelonious,” one other poem in a sequence of “cuts” like audio tracks, invokes jazz innovator Thelonious Monk, whose zigzag cadences are recognizable in Cramer’s syncopated homage.
On fixed show within the assortment are Cramer’s rhythmic nimbleness and metaphorical daring. To see how enjoyably his phrasing and lineation ricochet, take considered one of his spring-loaded segments, rework the verse into prose and examine the 2. With line breaks eliminated, here is an excerpt from “Lipstick,” during which a passel of boys war-painted with their moms’ make-up run amok in a neighborhood:
The knot of six or seven boys
dashed forwards and backwards in opposition to
the strobe of solar via pines,
lipstick slurred throughout their
chins and cheeks.
That is potent writing, nevertheless it’s striding fairly than leaping, in distinction with how Cramer really phases that passage:
The knot of six or seven
boys dashed again & forth
in opposition to the strobe
of solar via pines, lipstick
slurred throughout their chins
& cheeks. I stumbled,
a couple of delirious streaks
crosshatching my forehead…
This is not simply sitting on the web page. It is occurring there, switched on, with lengthy sentences stretched over an armature of brief traces.
Many poets use ampersands in lieu of “and,” a alternative that typically appears affected. However Cramer turns a phrase on this typographical gadget as a dancer swivels, propulsively. From “The Muddy Tavern Blues”:
…Out again, the riverbed
is silvered with scales, a residing
schist, a thrashing hoard of glitter
& blood. Wave after wave
of salmon, coiling
& uncoiling at nighttime.
Additionally uncommon on this e-book is the best way Cramer vegetation anecdotal bits — gleaned from the information, plucked from the web? — in a poem after which expands and amplifies them. In “House Oddity,” an endangered rhinoceros is airlifted by helicopter to elude poachers. In “Spur,” German villagers in 1347 throw jewellery and cash over a monastery wall in hopes of shopping for security from the plague, however the monks throw the property again. In “Moonlight,” a window washer, costumed as a superhero and suspended alongside a high-rise kids’s hospital, offers the children inside an astonishing visitation.
Cramer makes use of such incidents to launch prolonged metaphors and spiraling story traces. The rhino poem slides lyrics from a David Bowie tune in amongst fast depictions of the rescue crew, “Becky & the boys.”
Poems a few musical genius’ habit to sugar (“Coltrane’s Enamel”), the forgotten portray “1 / 4 inch behind” Michelangelo’s Vatican masterwork (“Sistine Ceiling”), a sea turtle that mistakenly ingested 915 cash (“Financial institution”), and a soldier in Zimbabwe who transforms a machine gun right into a saxophone (“Solder: A Debate”) all originate within the snippets of “data” that bombard us in broadcasts, streams and feeds.
As an artist, Cramer reaches into that pell-mell torrent and takes maintain of what he can use, discovering not solely detritus but additionally the heartrending predicaments of fellow people.
Ever on the go, he retains altering his point-of-view persona. A reader shifting from one poem to a different will want a second to regulate to the brand new voice he is utilizing: a person whose pores and skin is fully inscribed (“Tattoo Go well with”) or a primeval elephant, simply unearthed (“Mastodon”).
Even at its most severe, The Disintegration Loops is a rollicking reminder that considered one of poetry’s most welcome choices is the sight and sound of phrases at play.
From “Tattoo Go well with”
I can step into perspective
or shed it
with this sham pores and skin
aswarm with ornaments
& charms: the weightless
anchor on my forearm,
the choker of barbed wire
shielding my clavicle,
the inky blooms
climbing the trellis
of my ribs. It is thrilling
to slide so simply
into one other’s pores and skin.
As I wander amongst half-dressed
vampires & ghouls,
& the poor mermaid
on my facet stares
from her puddle of blue,
I really feel for moments at a time
that I’ve entered the ranks
of the cool…