Reviews

The Saddest Place on Earth

Stephen Osborne

Another book worthy of inclusion in one or more of James Pollock’s “families” of worthy poems and poets is Kathryn Mockler’s collection The Saddest Place on Earth (DC Books), whose work is entirely free of the gratuitous image-making, the facile metaphors that so many young (and not so young) poets substitute for good writing; here we are in the presence of subjects and predicates wielded bravely in the plain language of telling, as inherited, absorbed, reflected in the “family of work” that includes, among others, Lydia Davis, J. Robert Lennon and Richard Brautigan.

Mockler’s first lines set worlds into motion: “I walked into the garage, / and found a teenage boy / in a tank top and shorts, / sweating profusely as he / lifted weights…” and within a few lines the boy tells of mental institutions, the farm, the mall, his mother and his stepfather, people getting their brains taken out… “but what does / it have to do with why you / are in my garage? I’m here, / Alex said, because our garage is being renovated.”

Another poem, “Skinheads,” opens: “At first I thought it was a dream or the radio, / and then I realized it was one of the hundred / skinheads that had been surrounding my / house for three days…” There are allegories in these pages as well, such as “The Lamp and the Light Bulb” and “The Cottage,” which begins: “Hurt feeling and Anger had rented / a cottage on Lake Huron for a week / in August.”

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.


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