Jospeh Massey's dad really tells it like it is on the other review Amazon has printed. This is a book to get your hands on while you can.
While Massey (Junior) is still young--he was born in 1978--he has already become almost an emblem of sorts for the poets of his generation, and for those a little older than him, like myself, who are still listening to the "rain slanting inside my coffee cup." In a way this is precisely a generational thing, for Massey seems to have listened himself, to the work of a certain range of insufficiently praised US poets, and some of his grit and determination seems to stem from his vow to them that their lessons will not be lost. Sometimes this can be scary, like Saul stricken on horseback on the way to Tarsus. It's not just tramping through old wet forests when you're Joe Massey, there's some educating to be done.
The work, which seems so awesomely attuned to landscape and nature, is also busy juggling behind the scenes a mass of poetry, poets, individual poems, and poetic attitudes, but Massey's skill is such that it all looks so effortless. He is always seeing things for the first time, and when that gets wearisome, he changes up and adopts a poetics of subtraction, of disappearance... As though some trauma had occurred after which black-hole-like mist is sucking away all the stuffs of sustenance. One by one words leave the poem, and the areas of white space around the skeleton increase--like fog, I guess. Now what is this trauma? Maybe it is like the atomic shadow in which Niedecker wrote "In the Great Snowfall before the Bomb"? --I mean to say, maybe it is the cheerless historical moment we share? Or, it might be something more personal I guess. The haunted and abraded landscapes Massey writes about aren't much different than those which Beckett's characters doss down in, obtaining surreptitious slumber by sleeping under arches, on dorr-steps, dark entries, etc. "to give the impression that we exist" (Godot).
Really the landscape Massey situates his writing in is neither urban nor rural, nor even suburban, but it delineates precisely what German planner Thomas Sieverts calls the "zwischenstadt," or the "in-between city" to use US critic Matthew Stadler's translation. It's the place that has more people living in it than you'd think. And the place with the most dreams clinging to it. In "June," Massey writes, "Dangled above/ the traffic's rasp:/ / a contrail/ / a crow/ / a nail gun's echo." That's the whole poem. The colon after "above" plays a similar function as the semi-colon that breaks Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" into two distinct, yet eerily similar parts--the mirror function you might say. The white of the contrail, the black of the crow, the sharp sudden burst of violence of a nail-gun, all these combine *above* the traffic, or more precisely its rasp, to produce a square foot of hell that just keeps sailing up away from earth, like a pillar of salt, until you can't see any more, nor hear any more--its top notes, the echo.
Sometimes the poet stumbles, and too obviously contrasts the ephemeral beauty of nature with the rancid productions of man. (The "spider web/ wind/ ripped)/ / weighted with/ a wet receipt." And sometimes his search for the verb *ahurissant* pins him to the ground and pummels him senseless. You want to give him a good dose of Cold Comfort Farm. And yet if he didn't overdo things from time to time, we wouldn't find him of such interest. His writing is a gift, a corrective, a kick, a pine cone. As all things, he is precious.