Exhibit of Forking Paths

James Grinwis. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-56689-280-3
Grinwis’s is a surreal world populated by “little faces in/ the walls” or an “octopus clasping [a] discarded propeller.” Reminiscent of Russell Edson, Grinwis creates a series of nearly bewildering yet engaging microcosms. Cold, mechanistic titles (“Light-Emitting Diode,” “Rheostat”) clue readers into the book’s overarching metaphor: electronics. In poems cast as blocks of text, Grinwis is conscious of the poem as an object with its own mysterious structure that is “aesthetic as image jumbling. Aesthetic as elegant,/ bone-gnawed landscape. Unfinished done business.” In contrast to these utilitarian blocks, other poems are airy, grappling with more naked emotion: “we must care for the things under our wings/ and auspices.// even if they are gawky, have odd/ manners and styles// like those with roots in places/ through which they but wander.” Grinwis manages, throughout, to build poems that are fun, disjunctive, and seem improvisatory, while also sturdy, as in “Format”: “A box/ A small white box/ from either Korea or Japan/ that looks like an unflated envelope./ To not open the box,/ to just stare at it/ for a great length of time.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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