This Family's TV Set
This family's TV set doesn't always show the right picture. Sometimes it fantasizes a different picture entirely. It daydreams a new plot; casts it own set of characters. Some of this family's favorite shows are not network shows at all but tall tales spun out by their own TV set, uncatalogued in any program guide.
In the wee hours of the morning, behind the mindless test patterns, you can see the faint images of private dress rehearsals.
Tell me that's not awesome.
Thomas Wiloch's Stigmata Junction has just given me an all new respect for the prose poem. This is one of those books that shows up out of nowhere and completely changes the way you look at things. I've read a ton of poetry before in all the different forms and covering all the different subjects, but this is a collection that's hit me right upside the head and shaken me, made my knees buckle and altered the way I look at poetry.
That sounds a bit extreme, doesn't it? And maybe it is, maybe I'm overselling it for the sake of this review, but the truth is, I read this book 3 times yesterday, and I don't read anything 3 times, no matter what it is. And each time I read it, I found something new, like this from "The Basin of Stars":
Only a section of the sky is reflected in this water. Even the ocean cannot reflect the whole sky. But he is happy with this section. It is his section, and he watches it.
I read that poem 3 times before that part jumped out at me, it's such a subtle addition to a poem about a man who sees the sky reflected in a basin of water, then drinks the water and, when he looks up at the stars again, sees a black spot where the stars no longer shine.
I've never met Wiloch, never heard of him before Stigmata Junction showed up in my mailbox, but I'd love to meet him, cuz the stuff that goes through this guy's head, he's GOT to be fun to hang around with. He offers up here 26 surreal nightmares, the stuff any writer worth their salt would wake from and immediately be moved to write it down, thinking, "Wow, that'll make an excellent story!" only to realize in the morning, our meager talents don't reach that far. Luckily, Wiloch's do, because I honestly think my own imagination has been broadened by his work.
These are lonely worlds he writes about, I can't imagine any of the inhabitants of these poems going to family dinners or having coffee with friends. These people don't have family or friends, and the one who has a hint of normality with an office job is eaten by his desk. Solitude oozes from the pages of Stigmata Junction, solitude and such an overwhelming feeling of being ostracized, you're tempted to look around while reading it just to make sure there are still people around, lest you close the book and find yourself transported to one of these pages.
Three Knocks on the Black Door
There are three doors in the room. One is red, another green, the last black. He goes to the red door and tries it. It is locked. He knocks on it and, after a long pause, the door opens. There is darkness beyond. No one is there. He hurriedly closes the door.
He goes to the green door. It too is locked. He knocks. Screams answer him. He tries the door again and it opens, blinding white light flooding the room. More electric screams. He slams it shut.
He catches his breath before going to the black door. But before he can try the doorknob, he hears three knocks from the other side. He opens the door. Standing before him is a young man. The man stares are him. Beyond the man he can see a room with two doors, one red and the other green.
Can you feel the loneliness creeping out of that one?
Identity is another recurring theme with mirrors and reflections playing a big part, and it's never a good part, never a cheerful image. The mark of a good writer is one who can show you his world. The mark of an excellent writer is one who can take you to his world and leave you there, afraid you're not going to be able to get out, and Stigmata Junction is the work of an excellent writer.
Wiloch has published, according to his bio, 9 collections of poetry. I'd love to get my hands on them. This one's a bit easier to snag, order it from the publisher at www.nakedsnakepress.com. (According to the author's website, this is a rerelease of a 1985 chapbook. --editor)
Stigmata Junction, by Thomas Wiloch on Amazon