IMG_9362.JPG
 

reviewed by tyler flynn dorholt

Factory Hollow has been publishing chapbooks and full-length collections of poetry since 2005. In perusing their website, viewers might notice that the press’s titles read as a kind of Western Massachusetts best-of, and I mean that in a good way; after all, the press is situated close to the Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where one of the editors, the poet Dara Weir, teaches, and two of the chapbooks reviewed herein are written by alumni.

I’ve been asking myself if this just means Factory Hollow is a tightly-knit press, and yet there is something reverberating beyond the editors’ selections. The three titles I’ve chosen to review—from poets Kate Lindroos, Brian Henry, and Holly St. John Bergon—vary in both form and content. From the almost computational lyrics of Lindroos, to the brusque but comical etches of Henry, to the liminal and doleful verses of St. John Bergon, Factory Hollow’s most recent publications widen poetry’s readership and, as well-designed and produced objects, travel well together.     

 
 
  The Costume of a Hunter   by Kate Lindroos   Factory Hollow Press

The Costume of a Hunter

by Kate Lindroos

Factory Hollow Press

Kate Lindroos’s poems exist in a vantage of thought within landscape (not thought toward, before, or after landscape but within it). The first poem, which the book cribs its title from, begins with the line, “I first thought it was strange.” This could easily serve as a mantra for the speaker throughout the entire chapbook. When we see or hear something for the first time—whether it’s what we hear as fact or glimpse as abstraction—we are often estranged by it, and so is it worth moving on with the strangeness? Lindroos would say yes, and perhaps argue that, even more so, the leap toward not just coming to know something but also giving into the feeling of not knowing is worth it, especially in the world of the poet. Poets must glide on tangents and know where to clamp down on an urge. It is what gives way to connections that didn’t exist and, as we read later in “The Costume of a Hunter,” sometimes by doing so we can encounter “a thing we can picture with ease as it is.”

But the “first thought” in the title poem is what clues us as readers into the evolution of the speaker. To stick with a thought beyond the at-first is what Lindroos does very well. Here the poems consistently use such estrangement to bandy logic. Lindroos exemplifies this by enlisting failures of the day-to-day, in idea and action, in the strange—in “Low Tide” we move from a hen that doesn’t take to the “fooling eggs” to the feeling of the speaker “having made the wrong choice / with this and with other matters.” It is the sense of “other matters” that is at once sidewinding and becomes centered. In a leap of logic and instance, the one matter Lindroos introduces unmasks other aspects of our lives in which the sudden recognition of something larger must be reconciled—“and equal surprise to see how far / the water had come in or had retreated.”

 

Lindroos also uses introspection as confession. To go at the strange is to define it, to actively look until looking remains action. The poems become controlled, focused meanderings that are hidden by a loose and unspooling sense of tangency; the lines log-roll but retain a feeling of grounding. From “Talking to Steve:”

 

that recognize pattern by looking for it

yet does not recognize meaning beyond

its patterned organization.

 

The poems in The Costume of a Hunter are difficult to excerpt, mostly because the poems ride the breath of their logic outward, past the image. Consider these lines from “Soon, Soon:”

 

from such a journey of understanding

 

that comprehension isn’t exactly the hope

embedded as ember, to have some sense

 

of doubt that rises again repeatedly like how

flames are said to lick at something

 

in their gather just like I might perhaps

choose to believe something I previously

 

thought untrue the wind shifting into itself

as a way to determine its own being

 

The poet’s scope of association is often dictated by a thought’s refusal to peter out. The use of “as” and “like” reflect an attenuation of logic. In this, connections are not the hard-lined ends but, as Lindroos consistently exercises, linked to a lengthier, layered thought. The prodding of thought and scrape of logic gives the endings of these poems a heightened prowess that is also humorous and sincere. The poem “Soon, Soon” ends with the lines “as separate from definition yet bound by / knowledge of its crafted opposite, I ate.”

Much of these poems draw our attention to the pace of thought. There are poems with little to no punctuation, poems with spaces and poems without them, poems that end hard, with a period, and others which, due to what I believe is the sweep of the speaker’s contemplations, drift beyond their ending and thus don’t have periods, leaving them situated calmly in what was once just strange, leaving them disciplined and well-arranged.

 


Brian Henry’s Former Planet is a tiny, 3x3 chapbook with thirty-two poems, most of which consist of three-line splashes. The poems retain an essence of cutting and of cutting off, and Henry delivers them with comedy and care. They are what I’d like to call crafted knacks, and they are often loaded with smart wonder:

 

“Pissing Blood”

 

Synecdoche,

not metonymy.

 

Just let that one sit. Holes, wholes, substitutions, representations. Because of the size of the chapbook, and the shortness of the verses, it’s easy to spin through these poems and still be inside the breath you started them with, but that is perhaps a deleterious reading:

 

“Mescal’s Wager”

 

Down

in case of

absence.

 

My first take on this poem—and so many of the poems in this chapbook—was that I was doubly taken. First by the play on Pascal’s Wager, which readers should just Google, as I’ll get too wrapped up in it here if I begin to dinky; and my second reaction was the charming play of the word absence with the absent word absinthe, in that so many cocktails can be made with mescal and absinthe and that, in the truer trails of Mexico, mescal is the choice for the varietal agave we might only know as tequila. And yet my point is that these were the two immediate thoughts flying through my head and rather than dissect—or botch through another randy dissection—the poem a third and fourth time, I’ll just note that the joy in reading these is that the third and fourth times exist, and quite often the aftertaste is both bubbling and funny.

So is this the trick behind the brevity of The Former Planet? Regardless of Henry’s intentions, it is refreshing to read many of these in a row, or one at a time, and get on and done-in by their textures. I’d quote most, if not all of them, if I could, but instead I’ll just encourage picking them up, again and again.

 

  Former Planet   by Brian Henry   Factory Hollow Press

Former Planet

by Brian Henry

Factory Hollow Press


  Ghostly Glances   by Holly St. John Bergon   Factory Hollow Press

Ghostly Glances

by Holly St. John Bergon

Factory Hollow Press

How do we take part in what we’ve left, and what do we leave behind in what we’ve taken part in? These are two central questions in the world of St. John Bergon’s speakers. At some points the speaker seems universal, at other times personal, and then at times the speaker is Virginia Woolf; yet each poem arrives at a sense of the spectral, and inhabits a space in which the spectral thrives; from “Blanco Basin:”

 

“I think about the draw of deserted places.”

 

What propels these poems beyond the deserted is that they ask memory to occupy the space of a compulsion. Following “deserted places” is the line

 

remembering

the easy ownership, when I was nine or ten,  

 

of half-built houses after the workers left,  

a child’s kinship to unfinished things understood.

 

Here St. John Bergon introduces a sense of back-and-forth, which is mimicked by the form of this poem. It is less the thinking than what the thinking is about. St. John Bergon’s speaker is thinking about the draw and then is drawn into what the actual draw is. This then turns the epiphany over, leading to the lovely line about unfinished things being understood.

Ghostly Glances succeeds most when the speaker continues this dance with the draw. Poems like “Nesting” and “Cabin Fever” are fine examples of this. In “Nesting” the speaker has to “hope the hawks know / what they’re doing. Just as I have to hope I know / what I’m doing, settling into my new house.” It would be poetically understandable to end on the line doing, but it is even more human that the speaker grounds us in a new house, making the sensory spectrum less opaque, more tactile. “Cabin Fever” carries on in the same vein but remains true to the mourning of our comings and goings: “Although wind wants me gone, I think I’ll stay.” This is a risky form of resistance but one poets often occupy, and the reason they do is to, like the last line of this same poem, “…find a way, I think, to leave, and in my leaving, stay.”

In this arrangement of images and their attachment to place the speaker is aware of occupying space and admitting that, when leaving it, how they occupied it remains—how they occupied it keeps a voice in a space, even as that space might grow deserted.

 

Tyler Flynn Dorholt is the author of American Flowers (Dock Street Press), and co-editor and publisher of the journal and press, Tammy. He writes, makes art, and lives with his wife and son in Syracuse, NY.