November 2006

Olivia Cronk

poetry

I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone by Anna Moschovakis

“Dear inspector
Please inspect my little poem
My lark
My habitat”

--Anna Moschovakis, from the section titled “Dependence Day Parade”

Anna Moschovakis’s new book, I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone, is like a chatty doctor over a messy suture job. While attention to detail is the rule of incision, it would be an absolute bore, a dread, to have nothing curious of which to speak or think during the work.

Moschovakis, aside from being a poet, is a translator and an editor. I can only assume this lends her poetics an air of superior grammatical snobbery. (There are some justifiable, and even noble, cases for snobbery; grammar is one.) I don’t mean to say that Moschovakis isn’t laughingly willing to break the rules for the greater moment of a poem, because she so naughtily is. “Some traditions only become buckable with progress,” she states. And so the “I” of the collection blazes away, plugging through the poems with a kind of witty labor, as if to say, “I’m doing all this heavy lifting for you, foolish world. Read on.” But what she really says to us is: “Stop reading./Better, isn’t it?/Now that we’re on heightened/ambivalence alert/I’d like to review the coming year.” And while she yucks it up in a pile of homonyms and homophones, sly line breaks, choosy capitalizations, tenderly placed commas, and other such ilk, she sensibly leads us to a slippery-dark, crawl-slow clarity.

            Stop thinking
            about the rats in the walls.
            They’ve been poisoned
            with a special preparation
            that causes the falling out of skin
            This way, they’ll die
            a slow blood-letting death
            The idea is to make them decompose
            real quick 

There is something so endearing about the poems; they go smooth as a slither. (Note the clever positioning and diction of “real quick” above.) Moschovakis does not “dwell” upon her persona as an actor in the poems. All simply is as it is. Her sensibility (one that leads the reader to a strange darkness of envelopes on fire in a fallout shelter) is funny -- and warm.

            Thinking I might like to write
            An optimistic poem
            I loaded a font called
            UTOPIA
            It crashed my computer

And, “Like many people, I like hearing my name spoken during sex.” And: “[T]hey’re poaching on the picnic/Ground/All the food is tied up/With something better to do.”  And: “Sometimes everyone in the building/Is opening mail at the same time.” A reader is apt to trust this kind of character -- like one might feel soothed by the doctor stitching up the bloody disarray with hearty chuckles. Another thing that I find so readable and easy about Moschovakis is her penchant for catalogue. Her poems are often lists. Even isolated statements read as “lists”: “It’s always a fine time for breaking/things, like plastic forks and poetic trends.” “One side says Empty and the other says/why do we think we should educate things?/Things are not dogs. People are not parades.” A section of poems called “The Blue Book” runs through statements like a little thought-machine. The statements have a cumulative power. The density, however, like finding someone’s grocery list in the bottom of your cart, is airy -- open to possibility.

If, as I posit, Moschovakis’ poetics is based on a kind of moveable perception and if, as the poet herself writes, “Poems are a spice we put in our mouths,” then these things can take on the weight of other senses. Meaning the poems are meant to unsettlingly merge taste and sight, sound and touch, smell and thought, etc. etc. Moschovakis, for all her highbrow mechanics, relies very much on intuition to make her poems “be.”

I count on the books I have read
And not retained
To give me a sense of meaning
Beyond the limits
Of my thinking.

Of course. That’s lovely. (I should mention here, as well, that the first Moschovakis poem I read was in the journal P-Queue, a place of similar taste -- cerebral and lacy combinations as verse. In those pages, Moschovakis attempts a cinematic poem, "Film One." What does she say? “This is a symphony./These are the things I love to look at./Some of the things are people./Some things. They don’t know.”)

I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone by Anna Moschovakis
Turtle Point Press
ISBN: 1885586493
107 pages