cover image 88 Sonnets

88 Sonnets

Clark Coolidge. Fence (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-934200-61-2

It would be reductive to say that Coolidge is merely “at play” in this latest collection of jazzy and frenetic sonnets—though playfulness is certainly one of the many characteristics of these poems; his dissociative leaps and cast of imaginary friends are also an argument for allowing the imagination to roam freely and be followed. “Let’s go,” he writes in “Sober If Not Somber,” “even those attitudes borrowed from Cancel Farm/…the women were crazy there they opened/ for anybody [ ] even Monkey Stern/ Nancy Billfold [ ] Attorney Bark Weld Esq.” The white spaces in Coolidge’s sonnets (indicated here by brackets) serve as both a caesura and a break in his atonal music, and it’s into these holes that the voices of Coolidge’s traveling circus come rushing with their arguments and jibes: “see them smoking over there? they’re not friends/ so can we see some art now? [ ] a plate of grass/ quarrels on the way to [ ] you have maybe/ a chewing gum waitress? [ ] a tar mattress?” While one might justifiably call lines such as these nonsense, one ought to understand that sensemaking is not always a virtue in and of itself for Coolidge. He’s serious when he writes that it’s “not shit art at all but [ ] stare at it.” In the same way jazz musicians had to break from keys in order to better understand music, Coolidge wants you to get him by not getting him at all. (Apr.)