String Parade by Jordan Stempleman
(BlazeVOX , Kenmore, N.Y., 2008)
I admire no younger poet more than I admire Jordan Stempleman. He seems wise beyond his years. Let's look at the poem which opens this beautiful collection:
Double as Bed
I am not featuring pessimism
as a function. I am not a member of a trade
union, although I was invited to a lunch
or two I meant to attend, but didn't.
The heroic, are the overlapping
voices found wandering the streets,
since they all came to the neighborhood too early
and the restaurant doesn't open
until noon. The city-life is back to
evolving. I know it's a central force to my reasoning
and order. There are times to go in.
This is one of those times. I am not
imagining we'll ever be together, although we
could, and so I may now begin thinking
in this sense, since taught early enough: never waste a being-
based aesthetic. That's me--
reminding myself to work, live, and then
speak, in that order. They are closest to my biological
likeness, they too have accidents as well.
"Double as Bed" contains the most explicit statement of Stempleman's existential groundedness I've seen to this point: that "never waste a being-/based aesthetic," and the gentle self-admonition "to work, live, and then/speak, in that order" would serve anyone well.
I'm drawn to poets whose work seems coextensive with their lives; not, I mean, poets writing about their lives per se, mind you, but poets creating work which arises from recognitions achieved within a lived live in relation to others. One cannot live except in relation to others. Let's acknowledge that "being-based aesthetic" again. And it's present everywhere in String Parade, if for no other reason than that each poem is dedicated to an individual; each poem is, apparently, a response or address. This is a book that depends for its existence, in almost every sense, on an idea of family, community, response-ability, and love. I would maintain that that is rarely a bad grounding for a work of art.
This. Is. An. Essential. Work. Of. Art. I want to read everything Jordan Stempleman writes. I hope, dear reader, you will come to feel this way too.
Tom Beckett is the author of This Poem/What Speaks?/A Day (Otoliths), Unprotected Texts (Meritage Press), and the curator of the E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S interview series (Otoliths). He is currently working on a year long conversation-in-writing with Geof Huth.