Review of In This Alone Impulse

Shya Scanlon’s new book of poems, In This Alone Impulse (Noemi Press, 2009), is impossible to categorize and endlessly rewarding. His ability to play with words, to jumble them, to change their meaning through all this jumble, is what makes it unique, and moving.

None of the poems are longer than seven lines, and within those lines are sharp-witted, playful conversations between the author and his mind, or between his mind and his external environment. At times, the mind works through dreams, and many of these poems, with the way words are arranged or used and misused, hyper-used even, seem to emulate dream dialogues. Scanlon meets and converses with images from his past and present, his family, his childhood, a day at the beach, his loves and his struggles.

Prior to the poems about poet Tony Hoagland toward the last quarter, the book is floating, metamorphosing, getting ready for something. Post-Tony, some of the abstraction that came before crystallizes into something more concrete, a moving forward somehow, and an illumination occurs. There is a little less wordplay and more references to specific physical entities and beings. It’s as if Scanlon’s awoken from his dream or out of the alone-ness of sleep or meditation back into the physical world and its social activities.

My favorite line in the whole book is in this later section in “Tape around the Wait.” “Can I take you to the copy machine and draw light across your skin?” I’ve read this over and over, and it makes my insides crinkle up like a ball of paper. Every time.

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