Shine Tomorrow is the second short book in the third volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Iowa-born Joel Craig, who now lives in Chicago, tells us in his personal statement that, “It’s in my poetic blood to make disjunctive arrangements.” In five long poems spanning sixteen pages, Craig employs a kind of idiomatic scrapbooking, combined with syntactic contortions, to achieve surprising psychological assemblages.
Consider the middle of “High Park,” for example:
It wasn’t until I had reached the hotel, getting out of the cab
that I remembered the blue nightgown, and laughed.
The door opened and a mass of electrified silver hair poked itself
into my field of vision. Words carving through my mind
occasionally taking a wrong turn
through labyrinthine caverns.
I didn’t even know I wanted cornbread with scallions until now.
Language, and where it leads us, is primary in these poems. Narrative takes a back seat. Craig is particularly fond of certain words and phrases. The word “okay,” for example, that milquetoast signifier of nothing-much assiduously avoided by most poets, is gainfully resurrected by Craig in multiple poems. The color green, Death Valley, and Buddha also weave their way through this tapestry. The phrase “It’s just so fun to speculate” repeats throughout “Thin Red Line”, as indeed these poems do speculate — leaping wildly from line to line.