Review by Patrick Denton Mackay
THIS DRAWN & QUARTERED MOON
P.O. Box 3008
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6B 3X5
2013, 128 pp., $18.00
Klipschutz is a well-kept secret whose talent is only now emerging after his second volume, This Drawn and Quartered Moon. I had the privilege of reviewing Mr. Lipschutz’s first poetry collection, Twilight of the Male Ego some years ago. His finely hewn and keenly adept poems shine like the shiver in a pond at dusk, and slowly ripple out into consciousness in profound ways. A once street hustler, and a remarkably funny person, it is not surprising when he tells me that “everyone knows me at the bank.”
If one of the missions of poetry is to say what everyone thinks but never says, truth so often couched or hidden by formalities, etiquette, governmental suppression, or simply lack of vocabulary, then This Drawn & Quartered Moon succeeds in exposing what otherwise would be left unsaid. Yet, rending the guts of poetry and pulling the innards of truth into daylight is only part of this volume’s mot juste. In the hundred-page-plus ride, we’re exposed to a powerhouse of play that sings, sparks, flips fingers, points at, snaps, makes fun of, bleeds, roasts, startles, rearranges, debunks—in short, lights with a blowtorch mouth the hilarious and tender moments of life with formidable skill.
The collection is made up of six espresso shot sections—mostly free verse—with a smattering of formal structure. No matter the choice of such a modern style, This Drawn & Quartered Moon still resonates musically, lines lining up like a row of lucky sevens singing on a slot machine:
Something in the water, somehow in the air, search engine
For your sampled thoughts, somewhere over the radio …
—“Ghazal of the Terrible Twenties”
The office bottle was dry, so I bought myself a vowel,
Once upon a girl whose fortune was her face.
—“Ghazal of the Sugarless Gumshoe”
The lingual play here is deft; the “search engine” is what all poetic hounds in a technological age are becoming. And further, the fantastic turn of a transmogrified fairytale opening, “once upon a girl …” and the sudden whiplash caused by the rest of the line “whose fortune was her face …” leads to the riveting conclusion that so many fortunes today are truly made up of faces, and more, made up of made-up faces. Rhetorically, such “switching” is typical of klipschutz’s ironic style: take a cliché line, an adage, some saying, and twist it so tight that the poetry drips from its rendering.
However, to see from a vantage point the multi-year vision that klipschutz has birthed, one need only observe the titles to be introduced to the humorous mechanics that are so often his signature: “The Reelection of God (1999),” “The Alpha Beta Male,” “Slab of Consciousness,” “We Interrupt This President,” “I Am Not a Haiku,” “Interview with an Echo,” and “The TV Weatherman Rats Himself Out.” All are magnetic enough to pull one inside, the gravity of the titles like rabbit lures. And here the fun begins.
You want miracles, try Lourdes.
No more can my dog play Hot Cross Buns
Than a CPA scramble the code
And make pearls from a string of sham zeroes …
Like a dry martini served up in a glass, the neat and somewhat raw perception is quaffed, tingles on the tongue, intoxicates, begins to spin the internal gears, and, swirling, the sarcasm goes down. What better way to get slammed than by ingesting the richly visual and metaphoric crescendo, “And make pearls from a string of sham zeroes.” One is given the literal impossibility of a no-miracle situation while flung into the miraculousness of the lines themselves.
The verve continues in electric similes, as we see in “The TV Weatherman Rats Himself Out” the remarkable bridging of snow. “And what about snow—drifting as slow as a twelve-year-old boy/ waking up.” No better analogy could be made. The gently rocked awake weather, the weather a child, the child drifting from sleep into reality, all of it slips in gentle vision. And such precision is amplified at the line break “waking up,” which stands alone, enhancing further the effects of klipschutz’s quiver—for, how can one wake “up.” A sudden spin into the sky and we float with the poem.
Still, it is consistency that allows a poetic collection its life. Where one feels as if they are slipping from the author’s talents, the talent to “hold” the attention with something as abstract as “squiggles” on a page, is always the poet’s concern. And one should worry if the mix is spiced too much by overly rhetorical lines. None of these observations appear to clam up or depose this body of work.
Even in “Guilty W/An Explanation #2,” the shortest poem in the volume, we again are introduced to klipschutz’s wit, and perhaps even mastery of wit, however macabre: “The gun was, like, a prop. The bullets were symbols. / The blood—I hadn’t thought that part through.” Such keystone cop punning does not in any way diminish the author’s integrity as a serious poet, for, again, we are, as readers, allowed to laugh, and to laugh is not a petty emotion, evoked only by stand-up comedians. To evoke laughter by writing is a high and often forgotten quality of poetic art. To master it is no small affair.
This Drawn & Quartered Moon is an illuminating text, verbally sharp as a tack, spinning a web of language that catches many a random fly, but most importantly speaks of and about what most people never venture to say, and then says it with such irony as to twist the audience into the volume’s tornado lines. As a book it retains its integrity no matter the jibes, the ribaldry, the lingual play, all the while reminding anybody who loves language that it may be rendered beautiful and in the same time play its cards. The verbal Polaroid is slowly coming into focus. The lines electrically disclosing klipschutz is the in-house resident chair of Wit:
Look, there I am!
Flossing like faith incarnate
Cooped up in this poem
And all that sun outside.
Patrick Mackay lives and writes in Santa Barbara, California. He has won Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train‘s Short Fiction Contest, Best of the Decade in Hawaii Pacific Review, and has published in the United States and the United Kingdom. His poetry volumes include Perfect Entropy, Deadpan, The No Theater, Circuitry (Collected Work) and Graffiti Download. Mackay is also the author of the novel A-Metrical Techniques of a Schizophrenic.