Friday, December 16, 2016
Jan Conn's Edge Effects
“The drifter and I are hanging on/by our teeth”, is most of a couplet from “Night Deeper Than Water”, from poet Jan Conn’s Edge Effects, out in 2012. I know the feeling. Many of the offerings from this 85 page collection waver in the space between suggestion and disjunction, or, to put it less charitably, between suggestion and inscrutability. Fortunately, though, since the oneiric and fabulous are major modes within the volume, a realistic exploration of image and metaphor vacant or dismissive of organic linkage is fine. And Conn scores with many intriguing metaphysical etchings well-grounded in vivid imagistic particulars: “Pumpkins glow in the field like planets/of a brand new solar system” is just one example. Reverie’s dark side, however, is, past its inventive play of possibilities within its world-without-space-and-time, a flight from depth, or at least waking perspective. Hence, the instances of “I no longer stay at the bombed-out Ritz:/too many ashes in the swimming pool/and no laundry service.” (from “The Erotic Error Bar”), and “the lanterns explode./Sisyphus shows up drunk,/out of work and mean.” (from “Orpheus’ Garden”), which, despite their downmouth diction, fail to shock with poem-ending gravitas or humour, being merely clever with atonal juxtaposition. This is a quibble, though. Many phrases, lines, and poems deliver with imaginative concentration, both focused and playful, and although I had problems with sonorous overreach – an exotic lexicon seems to have been shoehorned into some long lines as travelogue sparkle – Conn takes chances, and succeeds, with an intriguing blend of image and psychic residue.