Review by Elizabeth Rendfleisch

by Mark Wisniewski

Platonic 3Way Press, PO Box 844, Warsaw, IN 46581; chapbook, 48pp., $5

The poems in Mark Wisniewski's One of Us One Night are plainspoken, direct, and profound. In scenes from New York to Nebraska to California, what catches Wisniewski's attention is civility--the way we get along (or don't) with our partners, our neighbors, and our environment. In "10 Seconds," an exchange with in-laws stays civil only through careful maneuvering; in "Open Gym at the V.A.," a basketball game highlights the tensions between those who served in Vietnam and one who did not; in "Mute," a drive in the suburbs opens up conflicts between the government and its electorate, rich and poor, and black and white.
Each poem contains a story, and, more than that, a revelation. "Mute" seems at first to be a rant against mindless suburban excess, but then we're reminded of "the black school girl/ forced to wear her i.d./ strung around her neck," and the unwritten rules of the suburbs take on a more sinister air. In " San Antonio," boarders politely ignoring their neighbor's activities are held to account, as "if any man/ wealthy or not/ simply breathes/ long enough/ he can work hell/ into angels." The everyday interactions found in these poems are familiar to us, but in Wisniewski's hands they are magnified, allowing us to see ourselves and our world in a light we hadn't known existed.
Wisniewski's poetry has appeared in lit mags high and low--from POETRY to ZEN BABY and everywhere in between--and in this, his first (and long-overdue) poetry collection, the reader gets a healthy dose of his worldview in 48 beautifully produced pages. The chap is gorgeous, funny, smart, thought-provoking, and a steal at $5.


Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.