Hummock of Malookas

Will Grofic

Hummock of Malookas
by Matthew Rohrer
W.W. Norton
1995
19.95

Matthew Rohrer’s debut collection, Hummock of Malookas, bristles with wonder and vitality. The straight and simple subject/verb sentences gives off no highfalutin airs. With the repetition of luminous forks and conjuring up apocalyptic fire, Rohrer livens a scene by jumping to the unexpected angle when you feel most comfortable with the poem’s direction.  Utilizing sentence length variation and consistent anaphora for pacing and rhythm, Rohrer breathes life into inanimate objects that now act and talk and smell. Acknowledging the great theme of death and love as great poets do and should, Rohrer’s observations uniquely set themselves apart by harnessing a poetic coyness, seducing the reader into thinking he’s reading an everyday sentence when instead the reader is being led into a stark epiphany as in the end of “will the red hand throw me”:

     The luminous fork knows that someday when I opened the drawer
     I won’t recognize him among the tarnished forks pointing at me,

     just as I am told one day there will come a knock at my door
     that I won’t answer

The pain, uncertainty, and vulnerability of this collection establishes Rohrer’s romantic tone as well, mixing the lyric, romantic, and surreal into beautiful laments. For example, here is the final three lines of “map of lament”:

     oh mischievous wind, which is love’s headstone
     oh people who carry old letter in their jackets,
     who cheer for the grass in the sidewalks.

Even the understated, lowercase titles of poems reflect on the simple brilliance, simple language, yet earnest and celestial talent to which Rohrer patches together conceits, such as doctors giving up in a hospital or the wake of a telephone (by which Rohrer means a landline, rotary phone, which seems prescient in the age of cell phones). Rohrer’s poems have a surreal timelessness to them; he even makes a raindrop poem sing like a downpour.

Will Grofic is a recent graduate from Bennington Writing Seminars where he received an MFA in Writing, concentration in Poetry. He is the Managing Editor at Potomac Review and writes pseudo-journalism at his blog DC Books Examiner. His poetry is forthcoming from Gargoyle. [2009]

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