Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Michael Earl Craig, Iggy Horse



Hundreds of finches in road
resting, drinking from puddles.
As I drive through them
they flutter up like sacred
soap-flakes eunuch moths
and I think of the gaudiness
of poetry.

The first I’ve seen from Montana poet, as well as 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Montana, and ferrier Michael Earl Craig, the author of Can You Relax in My House, (Fence Books, 2002), Yes, Master (Fence Books, 2006), Thin Kimono (Wave Books, 2010), Talkativeness (Wave Books, 2014) and Woods and Clouds Interchangeable (Wave Books, 2019), is Iggy Horse (Wave Books, 2023). The poems in Iggy Horse have a crispness to them, and the poems hold echoes of elements one might also see in the works of Canadian poets Stephen Brockwell and Stuart Ross: a slight narrative distance, as the nebulous narrators of each poem slowly form as each poem unfolds. As the poem “SPRINGTIME IN HORSE COUNTRY” begins: “Lady Aberlin of the oarlocks. / Colonel Mustard in the cherry trees. / Lady Aberlin with a custard, / Lady Aberlin in waiting. / Colonel Mustard in the pantry with an almond.” Perhaps it is but a single voice throughout, or perhaps the differences between them are there, and perhaps it doesn’t, in the end, actually matter. “One leg looks to have been swung / the way wooden legs often were,” he writes, as part of the poem “PORTRAIT OF THE WRITER / MAX MERRMANN-HEISSE,” “up and over a real one. / Or even over a second one. / It’s hard to tell because it’s Berlin / in the ‘20s, all those wooden legs / coming in from Rumburk / on the Spree, with good hinges / and shellac jobs that could stop / a luthier in the street.”

Composing poems around voice, character and examination, Craig’s poems offer a kind of folksiness, composing intimate portraits of ghosts, individuals, landscapes, techniques in medieval and modern paintings and other small moments. As the poem “CUBES OF ICE CLINKING” reads in full: “A medicine ball sits / all blau-schwarz / crushing carpet. / An accolade arrives / like a cut flower, / like old friends posing / as cadavers.” There is something curious about the simultaneous intimate distance, even as Craig writes a moment directly from within. Either way, there is clearly a realm of portraiture that Craig admires, attempting to capture his own variation on the form through the details of text instead of oil. As the poem “THE RED MITTEN” reads:

A school bus is following me.
I stop walking, it stops.
I start again, it resumes.
The windows fogged.
This goes on for a while,
creeping across town.
I turn left, bus turns left.
I rub curb, bus rubs curb.
I stop again, it stops.
I take a step backward
and hear a gear grind.
A small red mitten wipes
the windshield. I jog
sideways like a sedated
horse dreaming and
bus doors open, let out
forty screaming children
swinging book bags.

No comments: