by Vinita Agrawal
Blitzkrieg by John Gosslee
Rain Mountain Press Publication
Blitzkrieg is an unusual title for a poetry book. It literally means – an intense military campaign aimed to bring about swift victory. John Gosslee’s collection of poems, like its title, is a poetry book with a difference. After all, how many books of poems does one come across that resemble a multimedia presentation?
The book is exactly that. Apart from poetry, it contains prose, sketches, illustrations, painting and photography. Does that leave anything out? Music, perhaps? Actually even that is taken care of by presenting a link to the acoustical landscape. The first chapter is set to electronic music by classically trained Taras Mashtalir of Machine Libertine. The poetry on the page is vibrantly read out utilising 21st Century genres, techniques and digitized voice. The book provides a link to the same: “LISTEN AND WATCH COMPOSER TARAS MASHTALIR’S MUSICAL SCORE AND FILMMAKER ROBERTA HALL’S ADAPTION BLITZKRIEGHQ.COM”
In the words on the website devoted to the book – ‘At a time when the media says that the book is dying, John Gosslee’s Blitzkrieg is a genre-transcending book; the project features each of the traditional arts executed in a non-traditional way to deliver a beautiful assault on the senses…to demonstrate that books are alive and well.’
A preface like three-liner verse sets the mood for a journey in self-recrimination or perhaps incrimination:
Father, deliver me.
I am a pelican that has swallowed the fish
being reeled in by the fisherman
The book has a detailed story of migration in its core poem “Portrait of an Inner Life” (which is at the heart of the book) about how it almost didn’t make it with publishers, until one fine day – it just did. Other poets reading this book who face rejection of their work, would take heart from the honest confessions regarding the journey of this poem.
The poem has only eight lines but is candid to the core. It holds the book together, deconstructing larger meanings out of innocuously superimposed images of small vs. large, danger vs. aggression and emptiness vs. form.
inside a hovel
trapped in a swallow
at the end of a roar
without a door
The reader is duly informed that the poem was published in Rattle #37, 2012 and used for criticism by Rattle editor Timothy Green, poet Morri Creech, and translator and poet Steven Komarnyckyj. Later in the book, he or she is treated to Yumi Sakugawa’s pencil sketches of the images thrown out by this poem.
The combination of a cornucopia of creative arts makes the book enchanting and enticing and gives it an edge over other poetry books in terms of format.
The striking thing about Gosslee’s poetry is its stunning imagery. His use of words is minimum – no poem is more than a dozen lines, yet within this brevity he manages to slide a plethora of images before the reader’s eyes:
At one point you get “ripped off by mosquitoes in black bandanas”
hear “rain drums outdoor restaurant tables”
see “a troupe of lamb, zucchini and cranberries bundle a fork”
Gosslee’s visualisations of situations are extremely poetic and laced with wry derision. In a poem titled “I Stop Like An Axe Flung Into A Tree,” he says –
I arrive at the bridge and the shadow is a deer
it jumps and we look at each other
hooves scuttle towards a knoll
the mound of spirit collapses
I stop like an axe flung into a tree
my hand on the deer’s neck rests
its antlers point at the constellations
and I raise my head to see which ones
His creativity drips with attitude and it is for this reason that one does not miss the complete lack of punctuation in his work.
In “A Water Can Sprays A Flowerbed City,” he writes:
‘mismatched flowers pivot on their stems to see
my empty boots fill with cold soup as I ascend’
In another poem titled Rebirth, he says
‘a drop of water on an ash leaf pearls into a magnifying glass’
And in “Silent”
‘an old man on the metro train coughs into a beige handkerchief
he is the first person to look at me all night’
There is an interesting twist of a poem at the end of the Poetry section in the book. Gosslee, tongue in cheek, constructs a new verse from the lines of the previous poems. Maybe he wants to prove that poems are a fluid mysteries open to any interpretation both by the reader and the writer.
Towards the end of the book appears a bald-art collection of photographs by Brandon Mcrea depicting poems’ literally-held like messages in a bottle, beer ads, soup cans, a gate, machines etc. The photos add vim, vigour and verve to the book and carry forward the stark, dark spirit of commonplace life as viewed by the creative eye.
Overall, Blitzkrieg is a mesmerising presentation of art that has as much to read as to view, as much to reflect as to digest and as much in form as in substance.
More details of the book can be seen at www.fjordsreview.com
Vinita is a Delhi-based writer and poet and has been published in international print and online journals.