The Service Porch

Fred Moten. Letter Machine (SPD, dist.), $14 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-0-9887137-7-2

Moten (The Little Edges) fuses high and pop culture in a new collection that is as varied and malleable as his vernacular. The poems often feel like disparate fragments stitched together and can initially appear impenetrable. But the work is anything but haphazard and it becomes clear that the needlework was done with care and attention to detail. These are snapshots of blackness amplified by personal history, set in varied forms and structures: here a long, rhythmic line; there a series of choppy fragments. Many of the poems are driven by the musicality of speech and song. For example, "cuba and mt. tabor," aims to capture the natural dialect of its subjects. The conversation acts as a reflection of the subjects in place of descriptive imagery or literary tricks, "Where your wife? I heard she was Anglo-Saxon. Bad as you used to talk about white folks? Naw, for real, what is she? Eyetalian?" Still, Moten notes, "the sound won't show me/ nothing till the voice throw image." Where many of the poems are driven by an impulse toward beat and rhythm, much of the collection's later poems are concerned with the practice of art-making, "the constantly renewed syllabus of a new composers guild in the middle of enjoying itself." Like a great musician, Moten translates a hazy, fleeting vision into a beautiful noise. (May)