Today I read a book of poetry on an iPad. It was a book titled Stale Champagne, by Tyler Gobble. I’ve met Tyler Gobble once, and maybe you think that is impossible, but it is in fact possible. Did you know we spend 6 minutes of every hour in the dark, just from blinking? He lives in Indiana. I often disc golf in Indiana and also teach writing at a school with a name similar to a large, round object used in a number of sporting events. A long while back, maybe two days or eight years in the yonder, this young man shows up at my door. Tall, healthy looking young lad, wiry strands of head-hair, bouncy step, muscle shirt, a basketball under one arm and a cardboard box under the other, all of that. (I noted the cardboard box had several red and blue wires dangling from a corner.) It was Tyler Gobble.
“Hey,” he said, “I’m Tyler Gobble. One of the most frightening experiences for a writer is to have a pet squirrel stray away unnoticed in public.”
I said, “I’m not following.”
The clouds were in the sky like coughed steel.
“Well,” he said, “I have invented an invention, an innovative, FCC approved radio-frequency alarm system that helps writers locate pet squirrels or other exotic pets in a mall, park, school, school event like a Halloween carnival, poetry reading, store, or just about anywhere. Would you like to purchase the device?”
I said, “I’m not sure a squirrel is an exotic pet.”
“It’s exotic to the squirrel,” Tyler Gobble said.
I scratched my forehead. “OK.”
Tyler Gobble nodded to the box under his arm. “You want to purchase my invention? I do installment plans.”
“No,” I said. “I haven’t had a pet squirrel in years.”
“It’s for the arts,” he said. “I’m raising money for my own press.”
“Like a grape press, for wine? Now that glows.”
“No, no, a literary press. For words.”
“Your pet squirrel wears the receiver on a belt.”
“No thank you. I don’t even wear belts.”
“Or…or…or in the nylon waist pouch provided.”
(That’s crazy, sighed an acorn.)
“Nope. I do not have a squirrel. Have a good day.”
Tyler Gobble looked at me like I had a frozen turkey balanced on my elbow. “Listen, sir,” he said. “You carry the palm-size transmitter, OK? In the event that you and your squirrel are separated, the device I have invented gives you three options to help you find your pet: Locate, Search, and Alarm. The alarm is REALLY loud. Want to hear it? I mean it is LOUD.”
I said, “No, I do not. Do not set off that alarm.”
Crows were swooping all over the top of my house. Attacking an owl.
“This invention can be used indoors or out and has a range of up to 200 feet,” Tyler said, loudly, over the racket of cawing crows.
“Well, OK,” Tyler Gobble said. “You sure you don’t want to hear the alarm? It’s at the decibel level of a small jet and that’s if you put your ear to the engine of the jet which I don’t suggest because people get sucked into jet engines more often than you might imagine.”
“Do not set off that alarm,” I said.
And then Tyler Gobble left. He bounced the basketball right up the road and away in the sunset melting like ____________.
But I digress. I just wanted to say I have met Tyler Gobble. Once.
Another first for me was to read a collection of poetry on an IPad, basically a big-ass smart phone. I thought:
1. Well, I can’t shoot this book. Sometimes I shoot at books:
Ok, I could shoot it, but launching arrows at an iPad just seems a bit too vodka. Anyway, destroying an iPad has been so done.
2. I am used to poetry coming in a book or chapbook form and smelling like paper, binding glue, lost shards of hope. This book smells like an iPad. An iPad smells like finger sweat and television and a conspiracy to distance people from people and them from themselves, then their selves spinning from, joining closer to sucker-punch, spinning out again from their other selves, a sort of painting of hummingbirds caught in a lightning storm only the lightning storm is the skin over your brain as it sits in the back of the cabinet and crumbles alongside the Pop Tarts and the plastic couplets you find at poetry keg parties or Salvation Army santa raves, etc. I was thinking what if I put my tiny carrots in a new running shoe box. My mind would think, Running shoes, while I munched on the carrots. Something like that. Synapses are bathtubs. Synapses are kites of despair caught in flowering knees. Also Oprah.
3. I did glow scrolling down with a flick of my index finger and seeing the brightly lit poetry flow. Tyler’s book is one of flow. It begins and pours forward, like a day cracking open, but not any day, but like every day when you are caught in certain frames of minds and certainly this book, this “stale champagne” if I might and I think I might since it’s the fucking title, is a capturing of frames of minds, these frames maybe traps or mirror edges but also then certainly an attempt at ordering something, or presenting it, or, hell, even maintain and/or controlling a thing, the way frames might function when working or when at work and I suppose a life is a frame, or trying to understand any life is a frame, or a refusal of the stony illusion of framing, and that’s all I have to say about frames, framers, framing, a damn shame, because I haven’t even mentioned the possible word play and connotations and Platonic allegories available to a mind open and willing to consider the term, frames.
A bottle is a frame. Or:
The thing about Stale Champagne is I think it’s sort of an elegy, or an urn, or an admirable unforced valley full of unforgiving ways turned to poetry (we call this a soul gulley) and the narrator keeps stirring the ashes (back to the urn now) with his finger and he’s looking down into the vortex, and, yes, he’s sad but also thinking, “That looks sort of beautiful, this vortex of ash.”
Oh misgivings, oh misgivings…the circular suction of.
And the vortex is universal. The Milky Way and the water down your sink drain and the tip of a conch shell and the finger print, your own flesh, they are mathematically the same in their measurements, distances, way; and so one thing is everything, and the ordinary is more than extraordinary, it’s metaphysical, it’s everything…in this frame of mind, the elegy, where the GONE thing is always PRESENT. It is a strangely wired force! It has overtaken the persona!
A better question is why’d you/
leave before I woke up?
I’m dusty eyed with my head in the circles
your drool made on the sofa.
And here, on the opening page, you get two consistencies of Stale Champagne. One, Gobble knows the enjambment. This book could provide a fine lesson on when to cut–or not to crisply cut–the line. Jagged is a good word. Sharp. Two, as I allude to above, this imagery is of a thing lost. A thing lost is often more powerful than the thing here. How so? The thing here is one dimensional, in substance and thought, here with us, while the thing gone is more acute, multidimensional, the thing itself (now elsewhere but still thrumming) and the memory (physical [drool, for example] and in the brain-clouds of our neurons) of the thing. And here the poetic eye–exact detail, fine attention, NOTICING the stains of life, reiteration–doesn’t help the griever at all. This crush of compression. It causes more acuity. The writer’s sensitivity to the word and the world makes the rent edges of the elegy even sharper (and deeper cutting).
Her sheets I can smell myself in.
Flowers on the sidewalk someone lost.
Stale Champagne is an album by a band. There are quotes from the album throughout these poems. So there’s a lot of allusion here, and, you know what, I don’t give a blar. Because I don’t know anything about music. I’m one of the very, very few writers I know who doesn’t know music. I’m OK with that. And I’m really OK with that here, in Stale Champagne, because the words leading to the line leading to this thing, this larger situation, work perfectly fine without any allusion. honestly, I believe that’s how it should be anyway.
You know what I like about this elegy (my term). It’s something a lot of writers fail to do when they are writing similar material (similar material being the leavings and echoes of we will have in our lives). There’s the pop in here, this jar and pop of energy, these “twitch-twists” (in the term of critic, Calvin Bedient), sometimes simply kinetic, sometimes maybe sexual or borderline violent, and it’s an energy that says to me, “I’ll get over this moment.” Time moves both ways, back and forward. To wit: this elegy avoids a wallowing.
swatted the/alarm into side one
The people and their boogie/bodies
I heard a word cascade/through my floor and ring in a strange bed
The man in apartment 38 pukes/over his balcony. And breaks his/arm jumping off to clean it up.
or the final words of the collection
…the years are furious.