November 2012 Contemporary Poetry Reviews on Huffington Post
Michael Klein's The Talking Day is number five in this month's review of new poetry books! See Seth Abramson's review below:
5. The Talking Day, Michael Klein (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013). One looks to Michael Klein not for intricacies of craft or starbursts of poetic form but simply--and to put it directly--damn good poetry. Klein's approachable verse is deceptively unimposing, unadorned, and understated; in fact, the poet says much in demotic terminology that can only be emotionally processed at the level of the sublime.
There is something indubitably heartrending in most of the forty-four poems of which The Talking Day is comprised, the occasional misstep (usually in the form of a merely slight poem) notwithstanding. Often, these Waterloos and resurrections of the will are semi-transparently encoded within the syntax of Klein's sometimes-remarkable sentences, which are inclined to shift their attention and grammatical locution in midstream, or else employ those ancient rhetorical techniques (the periodic sentence particularly) most likely to induce surprise and--dare we say it--deep sadness in the reader.
Consider, from the book-opening "Cartography," the following: "And sometimes I look and see nothing-- / but the elementary smoke rising / from a human village, overpopulated, / and yet under-made. A woman from there is walking along the side of the road / to the next village where she can live without burning." While the grammarian is likely to quibble with the punctuation of these lines--the em-dash is unnecessary, as is the second comma--what Klein brings to bear is, if not consistent technical excellence, its sometimes more interesting opposite number: An abiding syntactic and rhythmic eccentricity that carries just beneath its surface a notably non-normative and intelligent mode of seeing. Again from "Cartography": "He said, he can't believe I don't just see a map / for what it is or a tree just being a tree. / And sometimes, our two spirits part exactly there." The workshop maven will ax the comma in the second line, re-lineate the entire passage, and eliminate the redundant "He said"; what will be lost, however, is the joy of a reader's discovery that a thing can be said both perfectly and inartfully simultaneously.
The above is by no means a back-handed compliment to the accomplished Klein, who has been writing more-than-competent verse for more than two decades. Instead, it's a recognition that many of the books of verse that slip through the cracks of American literary culture are those which either a) are published with small independent presses, as is the case with The Talking Day, and/or b) do not immediately exhibit the sort of surface polish we altogether counter-intuitively associate with Genuine Sight. The bards and seers of today and yesteryear did not and do not mistake the message for the medium, but rather privilege the former over the latter at every turn. One senses this same attribute, and the same potential for unlimited and inimitable vision, in Michael Klein.
Yet what is perhaps most deserving of honor in Klein's work is the poet's willingness to write in media res, that is, out of and into those liminal spaces we as readers only dimly see but know are actually and finally the determiners of what happens and is registered in our lifetimes. The strangenesses of The Talking Day are, consequently, entirely earned and effective. Sometimes one will be struck by the seeming lack of poetry in this poetry, but that's only until one discovers the poetry that is not poetry within the poetry--which, if you follow, is the best sort of poetry there is.
The allowances Klein is asking for are allowances his work deserves to receive. We should all be so lucky as to write poetry as deeply and abidingly rewarding as this.