Whatever Stasis

Chris Tonelli. Barrelhouse, $12 trade paper, (78p) ISBN 978-0-9889945-6-0
In a second collection that fully captures the sensibility of its title, Tonelli (The Trees Around) toes the tense line between hyperawareness of the alienating, larger structures that dictate one’s life and being powerless in the face of their machinations. “At the point of indifference,/ we abstract our habits;/ it’s the/ only way/ to be patriotic,” Tonelli writes in “Backdrop,” working toward a quick summation of the rules that dictate both the market and the act of reading: “An exchange occurs./ And vice versa.” Plotted out in a series of aphoristic, short-lined poems, a composite picture of the speaker’s anxieties and self-consciousness starts to emerge. Day-to-day existence becomes “a slow/ avalanche/ of all/ I fail/ to appreciate,” and there seems to be little solace in the creative act. “I’d have/ no idea/ what to record./ What/ to report,” Tonelli’s speaker confesses. That said, it is in acknowledging these limitations that there is a means of pushing though; in the poem “Suns,” for instance, Tonelli reports: “Hurtling/ toward something inevitable,/ I’m addicted to stopping.// Time/ is a kind of/ persecution, a kind/ of forgiveness.” Quietly and deliberately, this collection finds a poet wading through and wondering at the active mind—“This/ strangest other/ we’re in.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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