Review #79: ‘The Courier’s Archive & Hymnal’ by Joshua Marie Wilkinson

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  • COLDFRONT RATING: five
  • PUBLISHED BY: Sidebrow Books, 2014
  • REVIEW BY: Timothy Liu

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In Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s latest offering, the wilderness is not far off, just a stone’s throw away in fact, right outside our doors. But are we going out or coming in, coming out or going in: “Tonight just opened its door. Your stranger steps in with a head of worries: saying, I have no feeling in my hands, my face. The last brother, the moon’s ditch. We sketched the map out together with red tea. I held my hand open for him to practice the lines on.” Led on as if by Basho’s ghost, our apologetic courier/narrator goes on: “Sorry I know you less than the ice does. // Mr. Matta-Clark, dawn sniffs through an oval, mooring the joists. Which are tools for chronicling what you sawed through? Drywall in an elbow crease, scraped free with sink water. // A hole smeared into the boathouse floor. I startle the gull-laden ocean into beams.” These dream enclosures are constructed out of prose passages of the finest brushwork left by an artist whose inner-children have gone feral: “What force to pulley on the moon. // This is the story of children using an old door for a plank to the house across the alleyway. // Snow off the branches pulled to cyclones. // Blindness of being partway down the stairs. // The truancy officer locks the door of his pickup. The messenger girl begins to copy her translation by hand. Birds explode by. He says, Stand down, little courier. First show me what’s in your hand, she says, & so a trade begins.”

Disclosures: The congress that ensues throughout is alienatingly familiar: “The lobby’s lone attendant twins to Warhol’s Elvis cowboys in the hall’s double mirror. Sounds of fucking in room 304 & we’re in room 305. So it’s gonna be that kind of century.” Well, my friends, maybe it’s time to book yourselves a room at this mythic heartbreak hotel trafficking in “Not merely desire. & not just forbidden desire either, exactly: but some slant choice recasting the future freshly black.

Favorites: Read this straight through in one sitting.

Read Wilkinson at the Poetry Society of America.