Timothy Green recently sent me an advance copy of his debut book of poems, American Fractal. I helped him out a bit when the Rattle website was having some technical trouble, and he, in turn, sent me what I discovered, by the inscription, was only the third copy of this book he has signed so far. What follows, therefore, is one-part public thank-you-note, one part book review.
One of the things I love about this book is that Green is not afraid to rhyme — both internally, and at the ends of lines. Heeding the ominous warning at the front of the book not to reproduce any part of its contents without permission from both author and publisher, I will have to leave it at this: the rhymes work. Green is not afraid, like Ashbery or Stevens, to follow a line with something wild and unexpected. Rhyme, repetition, and stanzaic integrity (à la Doty) all work to counterbalance this wildness, giving a sense of cohesion and satisfaction to his by turns whimsical and serious assemblage of disparate perceptions.
This is a book, after all, about chaos and order — as is boldly announced in the opening quote by Douglas Hofstadter — the Feynman-like cognitive scientist after whom several recursive geometric sequences have been named. Hence, the fractal, present in form as a wild kind of order. But although the other word in the title — “American” — provides the content for this fractal-scape, Green is not a pop-culture poet. Though unafraid to reference the modern world, his work does not cash in on the currency of the currently-well-known. Instead, these poems find their source in a meditative place, even if that meditation is upon a man who dies during a video-game binge, or auctions his forehead for advertising space.
It is upon Green’s keen perception — both internally and externally — that the success of his best poems rests. Here is a first book by a poet younger than me that is confident and sage, but hardly predictable. These poems work together and alone to pull us deeper into the saturnalian possibilities of the well-observed mundane, giving us, in the end, as he says in “Hiking Alone” — my favorite poem of the collection — “all we / ever wanted: a little darkness to climb out of.” (OK, I couldn’t resist quoting just a little bit.) Preorder your copy from one of the author’s preferred retailers, and let that special contemporary-poetry-loving someone know that Santa is bringing them a tardy present that is sure to be worth the wait.