American Barricade

Danniel Schoonebeek. YesYes (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paperback (128p) ISBN 978-1-936919-25-3
Schoonebeek's gripping debut explores one man's origin story and genealogy in a sprawling American family, stalking through a sparse landscape "Like a fire eating its way across a battlefield." The pacing oscillates between grandiose and clipped—there are numerous instances of beautifully employed end-stop punctuation at each enjambment, but at times this serves as a means, perhaps, of the speaker constricting himself. Even with these self-imposed limitations, we experience the speaker watching himself "decompose in the mirror a minute," as if emphasizing the ephemeral nature of the single line. Instead, Schoonebeek relies on a collection of staccato declarations that cumulatively create a new "Colossus," as it were. Indeed, the collection contains many memorable building blocks, but these small masterpieces are often lost in an inundation of verbiage. The Family Album poems serve as examples of distilled brevity ("Father they crown/ son king/ of your rust"), and yet, such impactful moments can be found throughout as long as one is ready to endure the erection of visible scaffolding. The end result is a forged totality that has been shaped with extreme care, perhaps best summarized as follows: "Unbroken thing he said looking up you're the color of everything exploded at once." (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/28/2014
Genre: Fiction
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