Sam’s Teeth

Patrick Culliton. Subito, $18 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-9906612-7-6
Cleveland native Culliton draws on life in America’s rust belt to inform a wonderfully eccentric debut collection in which he experiments with rhyme and colloquialism as his poems seesaw between the disconcertingly aloof and the sharply despairing. He describes a place where “Flies write the state song onto sides of cattle” and “The flag makes slurping noises.” Culliton’s hometown gets refracted through his wry perspective into something fresh and bewildering, a locale that is both uproarious and haunting: “We tent out in fatass dark./ Our teeth flash/ like America’s ghost/ meat and we forgot/ to pay the water/ bill.” For Culliton, America is a landscape and a concept that should be met with skepticism and perhaps a little bit of mocked romanticism: “When my love thinks of America, does she/ have new arms, flexible as stems? Flowers. Ugh.// When flowers think of America/ they get performance anxiety.” Culliton’s pieces are often short, including “Song,” in which he writes, “The sky has a bunch/ of stupid potions. Now your chin// will fit a starling keep it in there/ post-stitch.” Others, such as the beautiful closer, “Husk,” cover multiple pages with short, self-contained enigmas. In that final poem of stunning desolation, Culliton writes, “Most lost boats find the shore/ lets them down.” Readers, however, will not be let down. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/05/2017
Release date: 05/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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