I Live Here Now by Jackie Clark

This chapbook features an image of an abandoned, grungy room on both the front and back covers. The title and the author’s name are written on a wall slanting away from the viewer’s eyes, roughly set off from the wall by a stroke of what appears to be spray paint white. Though the information is written in sloppy black print, it does not come across as lackluster; perhaps this is because of the context in which the words are placed. The publishers at Lame House obviously prized the overall coherency of the image above any prescribed notions of elegance. The title, which bluntly and humorously states that this grimy space is now inhabited by the poet, coupled with the image sets the tone for the remainder of the book as raw and unadorned. Inside the book, the first page is a solid, calm blue that matches the color of the stitching, which again contributes to the bareness of the book in that it introduces no new elements but instead repeats a previous one in a bolder fashion.

The three-holed stitch is placed in the center of the spine and leaves an inch and a half of unstitched binding both above and below, a fact that underscores the simplicity of the book. Each hole through with the string was stitched looks more like a stab wound than a hole for string. Also, the spine and corners of the cover appear to have been deliberately tattered. As I see it, this choice breaks a kind of fourth wall that exists between the reader and the poet/publisher. I expect certain artistic choices on the part of the publisher that more often than not betray no evidence of previous personal interaction with the book, so when I first saw the book with its spine beaten and its corners delicately bent, I was surprised and felt as though the book had to battle its way into my hands rather than simply hitch a ride on a mail truck.

Each page of poetry begins not with a title but with a pair of parentheses enclosing nothing but a sliver of empty space. I can’t help but notice this parenthetical vacuum before reading the poems, which casts a strange feeling of lack that many of the poems tend to address. In just about every way, the layout and presentation of the book mirror this theme that dominates many of the pieces, which gives the book and the poetry a synchronized pulse and allows them to exist in symbiosis rather than as separate beasts.


Will Gillette


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