Aside from the eye catching distressed-look cover design of Gina Myers's new poetry collection, A Model Year, one of the endorsement blurbs on the back cover snared my attention. The blurb wherein critically acclaimed poet Joseph Lease assigns to Myers work a "New York school sprezzetura" informed my reading of Myers's collection, which is one good reason I usually forego the reading of such matter until after my initial opinion has been formed. Not so this time.
Myers's poetry is indeed disarmingly down-to-earth, deceivingly simple. The poet has a gift for evoking the mélange that make up a moment, that collectively comprise place. This technique is used to various effects. In "Tuesday," Myers locates the quiet magnificence in the mundane:
My magazine rack securing my place in the world.
The shelves of books a sign of the real.
The cup of tea I pour solves nothing.
I make a list of all the things I'd like to break.
Every moment, every object, carries some weight. Reading poems like "Tuesday" is like analyzing the hodgepodge of objects that make up a person's life, like stepping into a living room and forming a careful evaluation of the person based on the things they choose to surround themselves with.
Often, Myers' poems are constructed within a form. Sometimes the form is stanzaic, sometimes it is built around a construct of language, and sometimes, as in "Elegy," it utilizes "if...then," and "either...or" constructs. In this case, the logic is that of everyday life, and the form itself lends to the poem's movement. The subject remains the stuff of life, logic-infused:
Either the house was full or the tea leaves had dried.
Either a house, or if not a house, a sparrow.
If not words, then the meaning of words.
"After David Shapiro" is another poem that uses form to inform, and is one wherein language comprises the construct, every line beginning "dear" [fill in the blank], addressing objects such as a calendar, bridge, and song. The poems entitled "A Partial List of Fears" appear once each in the first three sections of the book (the fourth section is one long poem), and use language similarly, each line beginning, "Fear of." Other poems, like "Sonnet Beginning with Lines by Robert Creeley," present a unique approach to a well-known form. The unique approach is also present in Myers's use of language, as with "The Answer":
This is all I ask for – to exist. You'd think
I'd want more, you'd think I'd desire
understanding. But I am glad the earth revolves
around the sun how it does. I am glad
the earth's rotation axis is tilted 23.5 degrees
from the sun how it is. You'd think more –
Other poems, such as "Travel Notes" and the long "A Model Year," are somewhat wordy, the language less refined than in other pieces. In the title poem, the long bits that comprise its pastiche sometimes threaten to unravel, the language sometimes becoming too loose, too colloquial.
But to the poet's credit, such an approach may be intentional, a searching attempt to find herself artistically. Almost immediately, the title poem parallels life and narrative, which can be read as life and art ("Hands gathered in the lap, syntax folding / in the mouth.") This poet is a witness, occasionally, to the unexpected, even within her own experience, and gives voice to the function of narrative in life, also sometimes unexpected, as we can watch as our lives house their own narrative constructs. There is power in this.
"March" and "Self-Portrait as a Mirror" are both powerful and quietly lovely. In the latter, Myers writes:
Do not be deceived –
these words can cut
glass. This emptiness
inside a frame.
Such elegant simplicity and directness can be read as a stand-in for the whole of the poet's work, as is also evidenced in the one-liner, "Prayer."
Myers’s work as a whole is deceptively quiet and calmly powerful, as are the things of one's everyday life, the small mementoes of who we are. Whether those things, along with language, evoke tension, as in "Lullaby," wherein "shattered notes evenly spaced" give way to a "Song falling into discord" or they render a patchwork quilt from the quiet interconnectedness of all things, as in "Winter Window," their ability to evoke an atmosphere is memorable.