014.1: Joshua Harmon:: from Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie 014

I can’t recall a poet who uses line break more dramatically than Joshua Harmon. The eloquent, ranging descriptions collapse and expand with each break, toying with the reader’s ability to comprehend the landscape’s entirety and forcing a constant reevaluation of each noun. A barbwire fence becomes more than just the trope of urban ruin. Instead, the fence is intimately a part of the landscape it serves to divide: “blossom//of razorwire,/and the barbed hooks/of autumn-dried briers/it encloses”. In Le Spleen de Poughkeespie, a busy litany of men’s rooms, broken trees, and closed “meth/dispensaries” contrast with the occasional and profound moment of perceiving a phenomenon isolated from the rest of the world.

Whether this phenomenon is the flickering of a television set or a young maple, such focal points provide “a wake//for understanding/the throes of subtlety,//the higher places of belief/and unused light”. Harmon portrays a mundane and soiled world as high drama at each line break. No wonder, then, that Harmon prefers the colon to other forms of punctuation: a mark that demands connection between dependent and independent clauses, similar and dissimilar things. Like the character of Isaiah in William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie “discover'd the infinite in every thing”. Ryan Winet

from Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie

The quiet streets of meth
dispensaries closed

for the holiday
weekend: blossom

of razorwire,
and the barbed hooks

of autumn-dried briers
it encloses: outfit

intelligence with such
defenses, the one

-two combo enough
is enough that need

not avert its spectacled
gaze from backyard

security spotlights,
from the unadorned

fluctuations of
morning TV:

from Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie

Seed-flecked snow
and glacial night, curves

of scraped road: misgivings
athwart a guardrail, the blue

-black hour: we choose
the courtesy of suffering

our friends’ exile to
the men’s room’s engaging

tracts, a concrete life
inhabiting city spirits,

the polymered drift
of particulate winds,

a salted river: blinding ice
and trees, snow rags

and sky’s rags as, silvered,
the circle’s clipped:

birches break under
ice’s weight and that

of their own branches:
the full range of unspanned

spaces in view, a single staked
young maple: a wake

for understanding
the throes of subtlety,

the higher places of belief
and unused light