Review #13: ‘If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep’ by Joe Wenderoth

Joe Wenderoth
  • COLDFRONT RATING: four
  • PUBLISHED BY: Wave Books, 2014
  • REVIEW BY: Timothy Liu

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Like perusing the Table of Contents of any Wallace Stevens book, one finds irresistible felicities when scanning Wenderoth’s latest offering: Assembling Your Clown, Letter to Dick Cheney, Nine-Piece Flameless Glitter Village with Timer, He Stopped Loving Her Today, Like a Poop Sandwich in Heaven, Gangbang Etiquette in Retrospect–his titles sometimes trumping the poems themselves, though most often, the reverse is true; and from the titles alone, consider what kind of mind is at work here–yes, he knows how to hang onto an academic job (We Share Arrows), but isn’t it easy to imagine all those prize hoarding/dispensing institutions eager to eject this one from the kingdom?–and whereas Donald Hall once defined poetry as “the unsayable said,” one might regard Wenderoth as Master of the Unsaid, his lyrical minimalism buoyed up by capacious white space and caesura and pregnant enjambments, the surgical strikes offered by his droll understated reticence an antidote to official verse-culture’s (not to mention America’s) gluttonous excess.

Disclosures: Only met JW once in an elevator going down.

Favorites: All of the above and then some.

Read two poems by Joe Wenderoth at Granta.