Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Elegy of Now: Jeff Latosik’s “DreamPad

     “We have to postulate a fiction. // I could follow what is real down to its furnaces.” In his latest bracing poetry collection, Dreampad, Jeff Latosik loops childhood memories, samples clearance sales and photostreams, and remixes a world gone, “so boho, but it can also go all doorknobs// on you.” These doorknobs, if the reader chooses to turn them, open onto meditations which resist closure and openly question the authority of the personal lyric, as Latosik orders and shapes the ephemera of now, the present moment, troubleshooting existence by showing how conditional our lives are.

     The first thing readers notice when digging into this book is its sheer size but there is no dead-weight to be found. His first poem “Dreampad”, which is also the title of the collection, is breath-taking in its sweep and scope.  

It’s this calendar I’ve dislodged and am playing
like a simple music grid controller.

It’s the past, plus all I’ve sleep-talked
and confused with what took place

and it starts out with a pulse of light click-tracking
across time and space. I gather up some days

and make a living beat to layer over. Then the grid
populates as memory, which has reverb

and you best believe it has attack. Myself, age eight,
coming back from a vacation that my mother

and stepfather had themselves dreamed up
heading in the same direction for the last time

and I’ve got a salamander hidden in my hand.
I want to make a commune for the part-pond things

but when I look again it’s just a smear of red
like I’ve wrenched down a nebula.

My stepfather looking out onto the highway
must have felt the same thing when he understood

my mother would be leaving—some general lack
over which the world comes tumbling again.

Hence, a trick I like to do. I make all that isn’t
come to in a half-life of being dreamed and as I do the days

patch through in a way that’s hard to damp and fade.
Strange, though, my remixing’s not my stepfather getting clean,

or my mother finally getting to live beside the Atlantic.
I feel it in my hand sometimes, like a rubber band

has tightened in my wrist, but I play better than I once did
the older that I do. I missed something that made my life.

     The trick this poem is doing is taking the speaker’s experience and not rendering it sequentially but “remixing” it with memory, making “a living beat to layer over”, as the speaker boasts, "I make all that isn’t //come to in a half-life of being dreamed”. This suggests memories are not so much what happened but are more a by-product of the moment we are living. He admits in the poem’s conclusion “I missed something that made my life” which reads like an elegy to both the past and the present.

     In another poem in the collection ”The Fortune You Seek Is In Another Cookie”, this theme of celebrating the pursuit of meaning while simultaneously mourning its loss as  ephemeral, continues with the speaker admitting “What you think should be is often in another life, not this one”. The ending of the poem is particularly salient when the speaker's suspicions about meaning are realized while they are sorting through memories and experiences: 

 Let’s say one night you were sorting through everything
that made you realize you weren’t the person you thought;
somehow you’d sliced through the thin adhesive strip
that separates each thing from where it should have stayed.
Perhaps you’d walk through every room watching sunlight
slow-tsunami the parquet with its lone blend of everything that is,
plus a cleaving quiet. And you might come to rest on a view
of somebody sitting on a stoop outside waiting for news
of a friend who’s not now suddenly so far. Or even far-gone.

      Latosik has a deft gift for phrasing with lines like “watching sunlight // slow-tsunami the parquet with its lone blend of everything that is”. He writes just as eloquently whether it is in tercets or quatrains or long meditative block lines.  

In a later poem “The Great Illusion”, Latosik writes “Our everyday sense of being // evicted from the real and true for a few electric shivers.” Clearly, this is what Jeff Latosik is doing in his latest poetry collection DreamPad. An elegy of now, this book shows how precarious reality is as it interrogates our private lives within the public realm. Pick up a copy from your local bookstore and read these poems for yourself.

By Chris Banks

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