Matthew Frank’s new collection of poems exchanges ideas for music and music for pictures, with completely unexpected freshness and velocity– and this is not the experience of surrealism, but of a current realism that is hastening with the times. And these times are often rude and beyond all correction and all comparison. This book is sort of miraculous. I love it.
In Matthew Gavin Frank’s splendid debut collection, Sagittarius Agitprop, poem after poem is unswervingly bold and astonishing. “Parts of a Feather,” to give an illustration, may be grounded in the experience of newlyweds home from a rainy honeymoon in Venice, but its opening announces that something very different from a personal narrative is at work in a Frank poem: “The superstitious geometry of the rock dove rests/ between its first and fifth rib. And you// rest between it, poised as water. It’s easy/ to call you a disease. Better: a heart or rain[.]” These are striking lines and they move into a startling meditation on art, life, union, and mortality: “Of course, you say, my hands// are the skeletons of everything with wings . . ./ A feather // stripped of barbs is bone.” Frank is a master of deft balance between the material of experience and lyric transformation, never losing his poetic footing or his sense of humor. As the speaker hilariously observes: “A marriage license/ makes a lousy umbrella” (“Parts of a Feather”). These poems are inventive, fearless, and wise. To be Frank, I think he walks on the water that is the page!
-Cynthia Hogue, author of The Incognito Body and Flux