Darcie Dennigan and Chris Forhan are two poets whose work never fails to astonish me. Although they are quite different in style and subject matter, I believe there is a current running through the poems which shares the qualities of the best poetry being written in our country at this time. Here are two poets as comfortable with logic as they are illogic. They are happy to tell you the blunt truth, and just as happy to tell it slant. Their work operates at the level of the subconscious just before handing the reader the to-do list and insisting on this life's practicalities. And these poets share a magical gift not readily available to many poets: their poems induce in the reader the "felt change of consciousness" Owen Barfield wrote of in Poetic Diction. They are able to take familiar language spoken in ordinary voices and transubstantiate it. The divine and the demonic equally emerge from the juice, the bread, the music.
I first encountered Darcie Dennigan's poems in her extraordinary first collection Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse. As in the poems selected here, the music and the images of this work seem both ancient and new. The reader slides along her long and short lines without the option of stopping. The voice in this work commands a kind of attention that seems like the attention song demands, in the air all around you, more than the printed word. There is the ghost of a narrative in every poem, and yet these poems defy summary or synopsis. Like all essential poets, Dennigan steps out of her age and the styles of her times and invents a new way of delivering the grief and beauty of this moment in time as if she were the first poet to do so.
Like the Dennigan collection I mention above, Chris Forhan's collection Black Leapt In is one I keep handy, close to the chair I read in, and separated from my overcrowded shelf of recent poetry collections. Its spine is broken, it's dog-eared, and there are so many lines highlighted that I might as well have highlighted the whole book. It is a terrifying book, in a wonderful way—full of imagery that seems dragged up from hell. Strangeness set to music. At the same time that the poems are easily memorized because of their bold statements and the precision of their lines, they unfold with meaning and defy the reader's logic. The images and insights in that book and here seem to me to spring from the poet's subconscious to the reader's, with the vessel of the poem their only necessary medium. I can think of no better reading experience or more that could be asked of the best poetry.
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