Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Danny Jacobs' Songs That Remind Us of Factories

In his inaugural collection, Sounds That Remind Us Of Factories, (2013), Danny Jacobs’ poems resemble exotic vines threading their way through a thick trellis: powerful, relentless, knotted, and flashy. “Pacific Energy Super 27” sets out with, “Wind-scribe, smoke-crate, one-show boob tube/caterwauling pipewise”, and continues, nine lines down the page, with, “dustbin dreaming sleekness firebox and baffle/deep”. Many lines of many poems are similar in descriptive concentration: (from “Ox”: “set to charge the sagged cat’s cradle/of rusted wire, go gorge happy and play/longhorn sky-high ragdoll”). One is impressed with the sonorities, the doubled- and tripled-up vowel extensions which would be terrifically scored as spilling over their bar divisions on sheet music. But the technique, though impressive, tends to overwhelm. Interiority isn’t muted, it’s often replaced by dogged observation. Similarly, the limited range of emotion – stoical toughness, ironical self-awareness (in the good sense of that contemporary, prevalent ploy), bemused regret – isn’t always a problem since the images, and the sounds that power them, are doing the shovel-work of drama. The feelings are genuine, though, which is the more important consideration. And Jacobs will often unflex his line-busting biceps toward concluding epiphanies or rueful summations: “go back/to your overlords,/we may mean you harm”, from “Domestic Entomology” (first sub-poem); “It’s never loss but a changing of forms.”, from “How to Shoot Skeet With My Grandfather’s Lost Double Barrel”. If you can stay with the often-dense wordplay, and intone the lines in rhythmic momentum, the assonance is enjoyable and appropriate for much of the gritty content. However, overindulgence is the dark attraction for the author going all-in for sound. Hence, an at-times Eunoia-esque bass-loop sticking, “frumpy bolted hulk with breech plug,/lift lug, and locknut flush to the inch.//With wife gone he shunned his lawn/and got stuck on mock-ups. Wind-snug,/dud draft plans hugged my screen door”, from “Hobbyist”. In like fashion, “Scripted Pitch” ’s jackhammer jolts fill the ears with the letter ‘i’.

When Jacobs relaxes his frequent Eldar Djangarov-like itch to dazzle with pyrotechnics, poems breathe, and phrasal surprises light up (at least) this reader’s imagination with more staying power than euphonic play alone. “We’re Growing” is terrific start to finish, an intelligent lament for, and diatribe on, unspoiled wood acreage and land ‘development’, respectively. “The neighbourhood’s on the fence” is perfect, as is “ferret/out new hovels”. “Miscue” flirts with mathematical (ideational, not structural) complexity, but is grounded in its poolroom particulars, character quirks given concise variation throughout a snooker-route of differently plotted, and effective, enjambments. The “Insight” sub-poem from “What the Walls Said” is the best of the telesales section, confidently ironic, and able to maintain a direct force throughout without the self-satisfied collapse into flippant mimicking mockery other poems of contemporary anti-marketing fall into: (“If you leave for home with your headset/still horseshoeing your neck like a sci-fi ascot,”).

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