The opposite of a contributor's copy: A Broken Escalator Still Isn't the Stairs
In the mail today came a chapbook by Chuck Carlise with the seriously awesome title of A Broken Escalator Still Isn't the Stairs. And you know what? As great as the title is, the book is even better.
This chapbook won the 2010 Concrete Wolf Poetry Chapbook Award. I entered that contest, too, and (duh) didn't win, which is why I received the book in the mail. Now when you don't win a contest, and then you see the book that did win, you often grumble to yourself that your book was far more deserving (by "you" here, I mean, of course, "I"). Well, though I still (immodestly) think my manuscript was pretty darn deserving, too, I certainly can't feel too bad about being overshadowed by this series of prose poems.
Actually, I'm not sure "series of prose poems" is quite the right label. Each piece starts with an asterisk rather than an individual title, so really, it's more like one longer piece in segments. An essay, perhaps, or a very lyrical short story. (The acknowledgments calls them vignettes, and says that some of them appeared together as a lyric essay in Pleaides.)
The collection opens with this sentence: "To say one is missing is to speak of perspective," and that idea informs and organizes and drives these pieces. The phrase "to say one is missing" becomes a sort of refrain, opening a number of the vignettes. This is part mystery story, part meditation, part love story. And all great. There are so many killer moments, so many sentences that any writer would drool over with envy. You can flip open the book to any page and find moments of utter clarity and wisdom.
Here are just a few of my favorites:
- "This is where you are, the walls say. It's all they ever say."
- "When you enter a room, you already know the quiet. You know it & know it."
- "Sometimes it's hard to believe you'll ever die."
The end of the book is about as pitch perfect as it gets. I actually got chills a bit, reading it. Like I said, this chapbook just came in the mail today, and I've already read it cover to cover, plus browsed through it. This one's a keeper, no doubt.