Intricately sculpted poems of modern life from New York City to Southern California—propelled
with a sense of urgency bordering on a vein of chaos that flashes with crystalline
precision of language.
“It was as if a supersonic jet / or giant Greek trident had ripped / a hole in the
stretch denim / of the space-time continuum / that sucked all the moisture / from
the unripe fruit of the future / then spit out rain like buckets of / coins from
a slot machine, only / no one got rich. Just wet.” (from “Group Interview”)
Force and tenderness color questions of life choices and free will, alongside constraints
of the psyche and of obtaining the physical necessities of life. The socioeconomic
structure of society portrayed with savage honesty: money (having it or not), appearances,
food, alcohol, drugs, sanity, homelessness.
The throbbing amplification of poems that illustrate the highs and out-of-control
nature of life is balanced by sober sadness, loss, perspective, and empathy for the
wholeness of the broken, with “staples in our skulls—” (from “Postwar”).
“So loud, the song, and then it’s over—embers spiraling up toward the stars. / …
/ And then this blooming / wound lodged in my chest, this blue / rose I call my heart.
I can feel it / dropping cold petals into my gut. / I can feel it raining inside
me.” (from “Sitting on a Bench at Moonlight Beach”)
The final tour de force of double abecedarians presents acrobatic feats of construction
in which nothing is lost of the reeling narrative voice nor of the tender humanistic
Reading Off Topic is like the expanding moment of stillness in our perception of
time as a rollercoaster free-falls: embedded in the carnival is a mature and lasting
exploration of self, poetry, art, and relationship.
GRANT QUACKENBUSH is from San Diego. He received his MFA from Boston University and his BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz. This is his first book.