With their directness and precision, their attention to what Ezra Pound would call “luminous details,” Joseph Young’s microfictions might be mistaken for Imagist poems, but with their shift away from showing “things” as “things” toward “things” as something else, or, rather, toward portraying both the “thingness” of the thing and of some different “thing,” his miniatures suggest something altogether different. But where they fit is less important than what they do, how they make you feel. In Easter Rabbit’s miniatures, its sharp sentences focused on often mundane details, Young offers epics. Seemingly channeling William Blake, he offers further “auguries of innocence,” further testaments to worlds in granules, heavens in flowers, and – well, suffice to say, these are sentences to linger over.
Young’s command of consecution and recursion appears effortless on the page. For instance, while “History of Encaustic” is most likely a tribute to Christine Sajecki, Easter Rabbit’s cover artist, it’s also a veritable celebration of the short sounds of “i”:
Someone had burned a candle, the wax spattered on the cement, pills of it in the trickle of the river. She lifted her arms and shouted, It’s later than you think! laughing at the echo. He watched her feet rise and fall, marking so little in the yellow silt.
Those short “i” sounds I’m referring to are most evident in the whispery phrase “pills of it in the trickle of the river,” and then also mirrored in “so little in the yellow silt.” And notice how that “o” sound in “echo” is echoed later in ”yellow.”
Speaking of yellow, Young finds wonderful correspondences in “Yellow”:
The water falling smelled of ammonia and copper, slick as grease. Trapped in an eddy, swinging toward the edge, the banana was fluorescent, a crescent of sun. He was close enough to hear the graze of her breath, trapped at the edge of inertia.
Moments like finding both the banana’s fluorescence and its crescent abound in Easter Rabbit and can only be attributed to a patient and attentive mind. But while Young certainly attends to language’s materiality, its concordant and discordant tensions, the possibilities within it for rhythmic play and falling cadences, his miniatures ultimately privilege the seduction of the five senses, that is, whatever triggers, as Young writes in “At Last,” that “atlas of synapses.”
It’s really difficult to cherry pick when every fruit here is shiny and ripe, but “Where the Woods Is Darkest” is definitely one of my favorites; it proves that, while wholly grounded, Young can also take the absurd bend in the road. In “Valentine,” another favorite, he marvels at “impossible things” like smoke from a concrete pipe. And then there’s “The Gossipers” where lovers are reduced to objects, sounds, and events, she: a red sweater and gilt wheels, he: a voice and explosions, and friends look on with “amusement and teeth.” Wonder suffuses even the most ordinary things like the revelatory view caused by an open front door in “Interruption,” the coin in “&1/4,” the light bulb in “Menlo Park,” the cows and small shirt in “80,” the “sun’s neat sugarpill” in “Second Certainty, Physic,” and, in “St. Avia’s Epistle,” the “[w]et pills of dirt at the grass’s white radicle, the half-worm breathing consonance.”
Besides Easter Rabbit, I’ve read and reviewed three other books from Publishing Genius Press including Light Boxes, MLKNG SCKLS, and A Jello Horse, and if there is a sensibility to their catalogue, it is this: exact descriptions, all dross whittled away; weird, out of nowhere events; a winsome narrator marked by melancholy. And if all this is true, then Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit is a distillation. These miniatures come from an unwavering ear and unblinking eye. And though the “humid cloud of words” is “impossible to understand,” as Young writes in “Epistemology,” we could have no more dependable pilot than him to guide us through the fog.