cover image Opposable Thumb

Opposable Thumb

Joe Elliot, . . Subpress, $16 (133pp) ISBN 978-1-930068-34-6

A fixture on the New York poetry scene for more than 20 years, Elliot's massively summative debut is as rigorous as it is loose, and casual as it is elegant. Each of these nearly 50 poems, grouped into four sections, progresses not so much by telling stories as describing several events, on a tiny scale, at once: "A Godzilla statuette steps/ crushing grey offices at the far// end of a bar. Next to it in a 3-piece/ suit a gratuitously rude// drunk sways, points his palm/ corder at a man who// is paid to expertly slice/ a variety of fish and smile// evenly." Over the course of the book, Elliot's speaker takes "a slow roll through Baltimore," chooses a fork "In Orlando when the day of the dead finally arrived" and finds that "Super-model-dom is to dungarees as attitude is to thought." But one-liners are not the point. As Elliot's observations accrue, a portrait emerges of a singular consciousness driven by a wry, subtle, detective-like love for its time and place: "The sound of a trumpet being/ practiced two floors below. Pushing a cat-like presence aside/ to get at it." (Dec.)