Masterplan. Eric Greinke & Alison Stone. Presa Press. Rockford, Michigan. 2018.
Alison Stone and Eric Greinke get it right when they muse beyond gender and hit a norm we can all recognize. The sum is better than the parts when these two collaborate.
As all you faithful readers of Today's book of poetry will remember, we have feted Alison Stone's find book of poems Dazzle (Jacar Press, 2017) and you can see that here:
As usual, Today's book of poetry sent Milo to the stacks to see if we had any of the many books Eric Greinke has published. No luck.
In Masterplan, both Stone and Greinke are invisible, instead we have a third entity and a new voice.
Another morning, the children
squawking like gulls at the
table, a stray deer
in the backyard
listening to the wind.
Another chance to take
or turn away from
another wild, weedy
space to enter or
burn, to be us or them.
A spontaneous cease-fire
presents a neutral moment.
If only the Middle East
were this easy, half-chewed
food stirring paroxysms of laughter
so much better than slaughter.
If only our little ears
only heard warn
of impending explosions.
How to joy, never
had to strain to make peace in this
torrid world, when
humor eludes us
like disappearing ink?
How to gather our wits
and families, shelter inside
moments bright as the deer's
Nothing to choose between
running with the herd or
striking out toward
individual danger. It
all leads to
a dead-end canyon,
when what we really want
is to fly away like cool gulls.
The splotched sky's turquoise
blends to blue-gray — no
defended borders, no manifesto
but the manifesto of light
rinsing the neutral sky, with
us one solar flare from gone.
This third entity has a monster sense of humour. Greinke and Stone harmonize so well you only hear one voice, clear and certain. Today's book of poetry knows from experience how difficult this is, to write with another poet. The only thing a poet ever really owns is their own voice. In a project such as Masterplan the first thing the poet has to give up is their own voice.
In the middle of all of this fun Greinke/Stone set us down in the second section of Masterplan, called "Little Novels," in thirty-one five line quintains, unrhymed. These splendid diminutive movies play surprisingly thorough. Each of these "Little Novels" punches you from a different direction and they come quick and heavy. These poems are a muscle stretch for Greinke/Stone and a delight to read. The two poets have cluster-imaged their id and ego until what comes out the other end is magic.
After the fire at the firehouse,
the fireman were banned
from lighting recreational bonfires.
The hunting club outlawed
dogs after the president's Lab
shot him - the loaded gun
on the truck's seat, the eager puppy
leaping. The school superintendent
called an emergency meeting to ban
band instruments after the incident
with the tuba and on the strong
recommendation of the proctologist.
The third section (of four) in Masterplan is called "Q & A" and is made up of call and response couplets. Greinke/Stone are asking all of the important questions here and some of the other kind but it all comes out fresh. We've been waiting for answers to these questions, Masterplan delivers.
The last section in this two-for-one special is called "Tarps." In "Tarps" the dynamic duo lay down the most basic groundwork for how to be a good person. These poems are the result of an exercise in co-operation. The residue of what is lost when we fail to communicate is infinite. In comparison, Greine/Stone offer sweet resolution, answers, hope.
In The Dark
Sorry that Pluto is no longer a planet. Sorry that Tower
Records closed. Sorry that Manhattan's pushcarts
transmorgrified into sad telephones. Regrettable that
deer munch manicured suburban lawns, their busy teeth
chomping Kentucky Bluegrass. Unfortunate that
clouds closed the moon's wide eye. A shame that
no one seems to feel responsible for the waste of
tears spilled for unworthy lovers, or the extra
miles traveled by rejected immigrants running for their lives.
Easier to focus on how regrettable it is
that the cost of living rises, than on the tragic
spaces between family members, pulsing with
traumatic long-term tensions and unresolved trust.
Sorry, also, that the Pinta Island Tortoise and Chinese Paddlefish
swam into oblivion, and isnt' it sad how the poor are
paddling in place, their resignation a different kind of
whirlpool, swirling inexorably into itself? Almost criminal that
pollution causes 1 in 7 deaths, our waste and poison
bombarding both personal and global immune systems.
Sad by no surprise that things so often break down, the excess
of some robbing others of bare necessities, with no real
opportunity for change, though the few, golden exceptions
go viral on the internet, neutralizing our consciences.
Regrettable, too, how technology fills our bedrooms with
anti-erotic red LED numbers and TV screens screaming
crime and war and the occasional hard-luck adoptable dog.
In the larger scheme, perhaps it's better that we don't
look too hard, but rather, turn our guilty eyes
toward the invisible dark matter that keeps the cosmos whole.
Today's book of poetry can't help but be impressed by the seamlessness of these constructions. Usually when joining one thing to another there is a seam, a visible reminder, you can't miss it. Eric Greinke and Alison Stone's Masterplan is masterfully built, you cannot see the space between the two poets.
It's exciting to see optimistic poetry and Masterplan is brimming with hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alison Stone has an MFA from Pine Manor College. Her poems have been published in many literary journals, such as Barrow Street, Chelsea, The Illinois Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Statesman, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, Poetry, and Poetry International. Her first book, They Sing at Midnight, won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award. Stone is also the recipient of Poetry's Madeline Sadin Award. Her most recent books are Guzzle (Dancing Girl Press, 2017) and Dazzle (NYQ Books, 2008). Her website is stonepoetry.org.
Eric Greinke has an MSW from Grand Valley State University. His poems and essays have been published internationally in hundred of literary journals, such as Abraxas, California Quarterly,
Delaware Poetry Review, Forge, Gargoyle, The Green Door (Belgium), Ginyu (Japan), The Journal (U.K.), Main Street Rag, New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Poem, Prosopisia (India), Schuylkill Valley Journal, South Carolina Review, and University of Tampa Review. His most recent book is The Third Voice - Notes on the Art of Poetic Collaboration (Presa Press, 2017). His website is: www.ericgreinke.com
Grand Rapids Poet's Conference - April 2012
Video: Eric Greinke
"There is no gun"
Video: Alison Stone poetry
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