Review of Jordan Stempleman’s NO, NOT TODAY

Jordan Stempleman. Magic Helicopter Press, 11$ trade paper (72p) ISBN 9780984140633

The surprising and surreal poems in Stempleman’s winning collection move and twist because the language moves and twists. “There are long standing nights/that I am hoping you’ll take over. So many mornings/of thuddingly unsure supremacy, instead of/suddenly I’m sure there’s a pharmacy. I love you./You are sick and I am not helping.” These poems are hard to pin down which is what makes them fun to re-read. The reader (at least this reader) feels like it’s an enjoyable game of backtrack and catch up, or a pleasant struggle to corral the seductive sprawl so a better look can be had. In these poems that beg to be read slowly, Stempleman has created a narrator who communes with all things, including his insides: “Blood, I may cease for a moment and enjoy/someone’s poor hatched scam.” It’s the internal barter we go through every day, our way of making sense of things, choices. Beneath the simple titles (the poems are all titled as days of the week) exist structures that expand and contract—small universes—explorations made manifest. Are these poems linear? Perhaps only in that they have, by necessity, textual starting and stopping points, though beyond that they’re like trains of thought happily derailing and shifting, looping back and then forward. Time folds over but invariably thrusts onward, at least, again, as the eyes of the reader move from top to bottom. It’s the sheer unpredictability of these poems that make them so wonderful, and Stempleman exhibits a warm-hearted control throughout. “According to the standards of a photograph of a dirty,/bottomless lake, I can’t say anything is almost beautiful/unless it’s lurking to come apart.” Whether identifying beauty by what it’s not or by its ability to change—as a thought or a physical body—Stempleman keeps plenty busy stuffing his poems with the confetti, rice, and rain of life. Instead of a bending to a bearded god or some such deity, these poems urge the reader to submit to originality. They’ll find plenty of that within these pages. (April 2012)


 Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. Visit his website at