On “A Pulling from the Inside Downward or to Wherever” by Bryan Coffelt

I had to wait a while for my copy of Bryan Coffelt’s chapbook The Whatever Poems, long enough to generate a kind of private hype in my head that might be difficult for any chapbook to live up to. But if the extra build-up made The Whatever Poems itself seem merely-good in my reading, the wait was more than paid off by the other micro-chap that I bought along with it, A Pulling from the Inside Downward or to Wherever. Tiny rectangles stitched with virgules and dashes, the poems there (or is it a single sequence?) visually recall Emily Dickinson; but in their swirling, mosaic use of shattered fragments of language, they’re closer to Dickinson’s latter-day acolyte Susan Howe. This one might be my new favorite poem:

     April / adorned with — the blossoms
     adorned with — the pallor, the guilty
     erasingly tingly Wi-Fi
     dying fingers
     / adorned with —
     the bricks the Harvard bricks, suited
     adorned with — doggie-style analog
     spectrum — the being mule-like of it —
     adorned with —
     reunions & reunions & reunions

Coffelt is a young poet seemingly still sorting through a range of influences—language writing, Flarf, MuuMuu House–like minimalism—and sometimes his work seems visibly experimental. In this little pamphlet, though, he’s hit on a style that feels both timeless and blindingly contemporary, luminous and depopulated yet scab-pickingly emotional. Like Howe’s—or the more intensely focused of Pound’s or Dickinson’s—it’s the kind of poetry that seems carefully chiseled and at the same time totally authorless, as if it condensed out of the air, or radiated from the sun.

And in a show of great instincts, Coffelt has underlined that effect by not putting his name anywhere on the book. With its landscape orientation and slight page count, the book feels like some kind of reverse-polarity Chick tract, a subtle bit of viral marketing that cries out to be passed on. If it weren’t for the fact that I want to keep it more, I’d be tempted to leave it on a bench somewhere—a little mystery (which of course Google would make it easy to solve, leading the finder back to Coffelt’s blog and perhaps out into the wider world of good poetry) for anyone called to pick it up.

Oh and I guess you can read the whole thing as a blog post, too, though I think it must lose a lot without the clean, poem-per-page presentation of the print version.