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Friday, November 21, 2008

Jeremiah, Ohio by Adam Sol

Having read a rave review, I read Adam Sol's Jeremiah, Ohio, a tale told as poetry published by Anansi Press. (the link is to a brief interview with Sol)

I really like it, but I like lexical play as much as anyone and Sol is a huge fan, bigger than I am probably. I'll get to that. Briefly the story concerns a Twinkie and other snacks seller who meets a sidewalk prognosticator and pontificator. Pop culture and the biblical mingle on a road trip that heads from Ohio to New York City.

There are some beautiful lines in here: "Being run out of town is not the same thing as being ignored." or "It was Ohio slate that maked his cheek." or "I gave his eyes to Iowa, his kidney/to an angry diabetic from Duluth." Sol is able to smack something unexpected to the paper, a result of thinking and watching, of mixing and matching. "We will be fresh from our convention. We will/preach and prove."

Each poem is titled, and Sol is not afraid to toss in all the tricks. Frost did one double line, well Sol does seven in one poem, sometimes changing one word.
"The end of a Sound is a river, this end of my mind one hair.
The end of a Sound is a river, this end of my mind one hair."
Apologies to everyone, but I really like that line. It reminds me of something, a song or chant or poem that is pretty well known although I cannot remember which one. Perhaps some reader will identify it? Just remembered, maybe, it's alot like "The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see." Similar too to "I went to the animal fair, the birds and the beasts were there." But Sol doesn't play with children's ditties in a straightforward way like Sylvia Legris does in Nerve Squall. It Feels good to identify something that way though.

I tried to read it straight through; he writes, "...yet will I urge, cajole, bluster and muster." Yes he does, non stop. Craftily crafting cadences that catch, or fetch, sometimes a stretch, to simply suit a sly six syllable sentence. Dean Drever, sculptor once created an aluminum baseball bat engraved with the words, "The only thing you'll ever understand." To me that's an accurate presentation of Sol's voice. He let's us know in through presentation and subtly directs us to the larger whole.

When the book shines, Sol notices that which passes us by. For example we see a list of typical signs one would see when travelling, Wal-Mart coming soon, Forget the Damned Dog -- Beware of Owner, and so on, which we are told beforehand, which in a way is sad, that they are all five syllables. How fun it would have been to leave this hanging until later and then be surprised by it so we reconsider.

Sol loves his alliteration, assonances, and rhymes. He plays games with syllables all over the place, 15 drop down the page to a line of one syllable.

This is all in your face writing/prophecy. Think of Billy the Kid by Ondaatje for an example that works similarily but with a different palette of colors.

I highly recommend the book. It's fun, it's fresh, its a grabber. As Sol writes, "May the words of my mouth/and the declamations of my fury/tear holes in the outerwear of the people.//Let them feel the hot gust." And we will because Sol tosses words at us with the cocksure bravado of Ozmandias. Truly this is the one book worth taking a long look at, you won't regret it.