Not Coming Back: 11 poems by Dale Favier
If you’re a reader of Dale Favier’s long-running blog mole as I am, you probably don’t have to think twice before ordering a new collection of his poems, because chances are very good you’ve already read them and know you’re in for a treat. This collection especially interested me because it was so unlike any other chapbook-length collection I’ve read in its design and execution. Nina Tovish, who blogs at Something Beautiful, used a service from Hewlett-Packard called MagCloud, set up to produce glossy paper and PDF magazines, and filled it with gorgeous photos chosen to play off Dale’s poems. The result is a poet’s fantasy of a magazine: no ads, no infographics or news notes, just “news that stays news” from front cover to back. Inevitably, some of the groupings of poems and photos work better for me than others, but all in all this is a happy-making booklet.
One interesting side-effect of presenting poems in this format so associated with a different kind of media, I find, is that any oddness in the text seems much more striking. “Spring,” for instance, almost shouts in its white text on a dark green page, and I’m like, whoa! Spring is pissed off.
The strength is coming
back into my hands, and the warmth is coming
back into the soil. Strange rooted things exult
and push into the air; tendrils
cinch on bricks and tear the mortar.
Your houses are falling. Your cars
are sliding sideways down the drives;
Your marriages split like melons
dropped from a grocery bag.
I’m back. As if I’d never gone.
In one of my favorite pairings in the book, Nina placed a full-page photo of a riverbank after a flood, with scoured boulders and small trees festooned with dead weeds and grasses, opposite the poem “Clean and Pretty,” which begins:
It becomes familiar, the taste of a household
being dismantled. All its shifts revealed:
the squalid corners no guest ever sees …
Another imaginative conjunction: “Anna’s Hummingbird, Nesting” with a photo of a mimosa bloom, which suggests hummingbird motion and color and is simultaneously a bit nest-like — brilliant! And Dale describes the hummingbird fledgling like this:
She is the stylus of an etch-a-sketch,
the point of a glitter pen;
frantically motionless; hanging; the sky’s
I find I like the fact that I can fold the booklet open at any point and flip it over to read it — something I suppose I could do with any saddle-stapled chapbook, but wouldn’t really want to for some reason (and it wouldn’t stay open if I did). I can roll it into a U-shape in one hand while carrying a mug of coffee in the other. What I’m saying is, the magazineness works for me. I got the PDF too, because it was bundled into the cost of the print edition, but since I don’t have a mobile device, it’s not very portable in that format. Considering how good the color reproduction is, it’s worth paying a few dollars extra for the tactility of the paper incarnation, I think.
The back cover features a macro of water drops on something very red, presumably flower petals, with a poem called “Mouse” superimposed in a cream-colored font. Somehow I missed this when he posted it to mole, but it’s one of the best penis poems I’ve seen. An interesting way to close a collection that begins with a poem about swearing off church, “Outside the Walls”:
Thank you for letting me in.
Thank you for letting me gaze
at your strange and bloody pictures.
Thank you too, Nina and Dale, for much the same thing. And thanks for, in a sense, redeeming the medium. So many magazines are filled with a kind of useless beauty, because who really wants to hold onto them? But it’s hard to throw out something so pretty, so there they sit on dusty shelves or in boxes in the attic. This is one magazine-like thing that I will keep, and add to my book collection, without a qualm.