Poem Without Suffering

Josef Kaplan. Wonder (SPD, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-9895985-5-2
Kaplan follows his controversial conceptual work, Kill List, with an accomplished exploration of much more sensitive matter. This book-length poem is, essentially, one continually expanding, macabre scene: a bullet hitting a child. Kaplan magnifies every particle of this horror, including the physics and biology of bullet meeting body and the interactions within a voyeuristic crowd. He devotes two pages to noncommittal phrases of pardon ("I'm sorry," "accept my apology," "please excuse me") and more than four pages to a list of potentially damaged arteries (appendicular, supraduodenal, gastric, etc.). Kaplan writes with a clinical sense of detachment—"this bullet,/ which will likely exit/ the child's head/ through its face,/ blasting it apart"—which has the effect of destabilizing the idea of "suffering" and emphasizing, from a certain perspective, the narrowness of individual pains. And yet this singular tragedy becomes a unifying force. An analogy likening the child's body to a toilet flush expands to consider blue sky, light waves, and ocular prisms before circling back to the body. The poem closes by returning to birth, perhaps the child's birth, and describes life's start in the same neutral, if gory, tone. Kaplan's poem thus occurs without suffering, by untying the knots of time and, like a Zen master, dissolving the boundaries between beginnings and endings. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2016
Release date: 11/01/2015
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