March 2005

Gena Anderson

poetry

Invisible Bride by Tony Tost

Invisible Bride by Tony Tost won the 2003 Walt Whitman Award, an award which was established in 1975 as a way for American poets to get their first book published. Writing a book of all prose poems may seem risky to some, as the genre seems to be a rather experimental one -- some poets and critics don’t even regard it as a genre of poetry at all -- but in this instance, taking that risk paid off. Tost’s poems do not come off as an academic exercise, but as a tightly constructed series of metaphor and intriguing trip into the unconscious.

Critics can argue all they want to about what makes a “real” poem, or what makes a “good” poem, or whether or not prose poetry can be either of those things. Tost blows away any argument about the existence of the genre by simply writing it. His poems are undeniably connected through the entire book, yet each paragraph explores a different idea, a different level of the unconscious, a different metaphor for existence. Poetry is meant to be an inward journey and Tost’s poems lull you into the rhythm of his psyche without bowing to sentimentality. His imagery is almost that of the 19th century Romantics, focusing on nature and elemental inclinations but juxtaposed with flashes of modern themes such as science or industry: "I don’t know (but I’ve been told) that what we see as color (I am currently noting how a moth, with its wing pattern, may mime a dead leaf) is in fact the amount of energy in the light meeting the eyes."

Most of the poems, if they can even be seen as individual entities and not a whole, emphasize the elemental. The constant reminder of water, be it in the form of a river, snow, or clouds, is used repeatedly: "'This August,' one may declare, 'I shall be transported to the river above or the river below.' August, of course, is a simple formal dichotomy between rainy and non-rainy days. Wet and dry thoughts. The more time a man spends in the water, the heavier he gets."

What impacts the most in these poems is the constant reminder of childhood, and the exploration of growing up. One poem uses the metaphor of an airport to explain adulthood, and several are about the relationship between a father and his child. The poem incorporating war with playground equipment is especially startling: "A playground should remain in a child’s heart, even as that child, years later, awakes, in his or her own clothes, on a beach, bruised (in a 'pool of bruises' in fact), blue-veined and delivered from his or her indolence into an outdoor, multi-use play area of a completely different sort, one that unambiguously acknowledges a community’s commitment to its children and the future they will inherit."

Invisible Bride is a fascinating book of poetry that manages to keep an internal logic throughout. It occasionally threatens to be overly self-conscious, but manages to pull back and take an expanded look at its personal themes.

Invisible Bride by Tony Tost
Louisiana State University Press
ISBN: 0807129658
57 Pages