097.1: Travis Mossotti:: Telémakhos and Odysseus & Where Is Baby Gabriel? & Howl in the Key of Blue & To and Fro
26 March 2012
The speaker of Travis Mossotti’s poems possesses energy at once hilarious and wild, heartbroken and feckless. Adjectives used in this sense are not synonymous with being funny, edgy, sad, brave and comical (though, the poems are all of these and more!). Instead, I mean something teetering into the realm of madcap—a livid and ludicrous Odysseus chained to the masthead of his beleaguered trireme while those left of his crew dutifully row past the sirens’ song, hearing only the dumb show of hardening wax. Perhaps it is the contrarian in me to experience deep fear and anxiety when I hear conviction or humor in one’s poetry; however, Mossotti is the rare writer who manages to pull off this balance of vulnerability and self-assurance, as in the opening of “To and Fro”: “There’s a quiet valley in my heart and / a noisy public restroom in my wife’s / bum knee.” A weird and unsettling first few lines in a poem, but that’s to be expected as the poem exemplifies the indefinable and the idiosyncratic interchangeably. “To and Fro” questions whether the life lived merits a comic or a tragic ontological explanation. While settling for both and neither, Mossotti’s speaker takes his oddball sense of the world with more than a grain of salt. Rarely can the idiosyncrasies of a poetic speaker become as infectious as they do here. I’m pressed to recall others—James Tate, August Kleinzahler, or Wallace Stevens—who exercise this attribute so poignantly well.