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Chapbook Review: Lank, Beak & Bumpy

May 11, 2010

Lank, Beak & Bumpy is an intriguing and attractive chapbook freshly out from iota press, which sets a production standard with work this good. The chapbook is elegantly designed and beautifully wrought, handset in Ehrhardt 12 pt. type, & printed on Mohawk Superfine paper with a 1913 C & P supercool foot-powered platen press.

Author Mark Jackley earns his keep as a business writer in the Washington, DC, area. He’s also a thriving poet. His work has appeared in numerous journals in the U.S. as well as overseas and over borders in India, Australia, England, Ireland, and Canada. In addition to Lank, Beak & Bumpy, he is also the author of two previous chapbooks and the full length collection, There Will Be Silence While You Wait (2009, Plain View Press).

Lank, Beak & Bumpy contains seventeen short impressionistic poems which cohere well thematically and emotionally. They feature strong images and a minimalist economy, and often have a haiku-like feel in the sense of breath but an intimate American diction. Jackley’s voice is both informal and musical and I found myself easily drawn in.

The low orange moon
makes the Ohio River shine
like a black pearl
among the hushed sheds
of Catlettsburg, Kentucky.

I am radiant and massive.

(from “Orbits”)

This has that Southern concern for rural space, tainted but still worshipped in an effort to honor the permanence of the observed and felt though fleeting, however subtle or ordinary. Here the poet figures more prominently and less plaintively though and the scene becomes a kind of minor monument in memory, a piece of the life lived. The poem becomes the vehicle.

While he uses the South as a reference frame, Jackley is spare overall in terms of geographical concerns, and his verse often roams indoors, though the materials and themes defy domestic tranquility, or at least complacency:

Like a Shaker bowl
the house contains the silence
of belief, and
like a Navajo basket
containing none of our business
it is keeping quiet

(from “Later On Our Wedding Night, Two Silences In The House”)

Jackley writes primarily from a first person perspective, and often begins in medias res, which creates a natural tension because of the compression demanded by each poem’s brevity. To paraphrase and also invoke Williams, as these poems do, at least for me, so much depends upon a few very tangible and personal details. I think Jackley intends the heritage, as one of his poems is titled, “A Picture Of You In Cut-off Shorts Grinning At The Chickens.”

In contrast to Williams and his red wheelbarrow, Jackley’s attention and connection to detail is decidedly more expressive than mysterious:

is on the bulletin board
but the pinhole’s
in my heart

Jackley writes more knowingly than Williams does, which one must of course in 2010. However, rather than troubled the work more often feels satisfied with itself and with the world, but never smug:

These lines strung out like
a goose hung on a Chinese
market window hook…

…are indelible without
the flame of your attention

(from “Minimalism”)

Verse this brief leaves little room for error as any missteps are painfully obvious and in general unforgiven. The work will crash and burn. Fortunately this does not occur in Lank, Beak & Bumpy. I was impressed with this chapbook, which has much to recommend, both in terms of its physical presentation—a solid well made book to hold and read—and with the precise, realized ambitions of the poems.

Lank, Beak & Bumpy ISBN: 0-9773843-2-2
Iota Press, 925-c Gravenstein Hwy., Sebastopol, CA 95472

Simulposted On We Write Poems

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