Originally printed March 22, 2011.
The world is simply too disjointed for Daniel Khalastchi to put his faith in line breaks alone as a means of giving form to his poetic vision.
In his new collection, "Manoleria" (Tupelo Press, 2011), the Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate invites readers to absorb his poetry through drips and drops. As suggested in his long-titled "Small There. The Screen Was. Out: (Morphine Drip)," Khalastchi uses his poems as if they were IV drips directly hooked into to his readers -- providing short bursts of linguistic experiments that are allowed to puddle on the page. It's a poetic world in which images "Combine as Assets" and yet celebrate how poets and readers are left with "Insufficient Funds."
The Khalastchi persona presented in this collection usually is deprived of the necessary sustenance that he seeks (as in, "By a Fallen Tree I Wait for My Salesman"). He often finds himself ruminating while playing the victim of medical procedures (as in, "With Regret, They Make Moves to Sell My Kidney" and "The Doctors Believed They. Were Out of Rubber: [Recovery])"). Or, as in the many titled "Manoleria," Khalastchi provides long lines of poetic prose that capture an extraordinary moment's quiet panic and confusion.
"The box is then sealed with Saran Wrap," Khalastchi writes. "I am reminded to be conscious of air supply. I'd say something back, but I'm already worried."
Several of the poems in the collection are mere puddles of fragments and half-finished phrases all beginning with the word "Because."
"Because rain. Because hard. Because / pain in my ribs. Because buckle and / wait. Because cramping. Because / kneeling low. Because pause," begins the introductory poem, "The Maturation of Man."
In these poems, the lists of "because" clauses seem to build to the last line:
• "Because from a bench I / step to the air -- watch as my city / folds down to a circle."
• "Because under the branches / they tell me we find it."
• "Because bugs in my / cuts I yell out for new moon."
• "Because children with / smiles they let out the lions."
• "Because / deep the incision we fall back the night."
But unlike the "whereas" clauses in official resolutions and proclamations, none of those last lines offer any official pronouncement. The poems, instead, suggest that resolution isn't possible. They simply connect what otherwise would be unconnectable.
As D.A. Powell blurbs in his praise for the collection, "Formally, the poet is literally taking us through the emotional work of picking up pieces. Despite the splintering, despite the hemorrhage, somehow 'all is accounted for.'"
Khalastchi, one of the founders of the Wisconsin-based Rescue Press, will read from "Manoleria" at 7 tonight in Prairie Lights Books.
Press-Citizen Opinion Editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at email@example.com.