(Counterpath Press, 2013) 

Christopher Stackhouse’s risqué book, as in see-through and experimental, reads like chia—auto-generative when wet with your own ink, when you catch on to the poet’s activity and join in. In one of his lecture notes poems (literally like retyped pages of notes), Stackhouse lays bare the appropriative or interlocutive process of the poet: “more 




mine.” But Plural is not to be mistaken for a romanticized “poet’s notebook project.” Rather, Stackhouse choreographs a thrilling dance between the spontaneity and Cage-ian music of these notes and his “tinkered with,” visibly-carved poems. The beauty of this formal tension glows lyrically as his diction sways from behind museum doors to the visceral thinglyness of wholly plural piéton “together, passing...all over the world.” In “(‘The Nose’ or ‘Boats’),” he writes, 

                                    intellect plays in the nose, rarefied, undecorated
                                    primer, not quite a brown rat—with all plainness the idea,

skipping in tight sequence from lofty head to interceptor nose to subterraneous rodent and back again, a movement tuned to his “compositional break in/from experience,” or this rat perhaps “the relevant excess to think about.” Riding such vectors of form and formlessness, the abstract mains and the gritty sides, readers might get the feeling of jumping electrically from one quadrant of the speaker’s brain to the next (never skipping a firm step on the hypothalamus.) To be able to follow the poem’s thinking—“These thoughts, / each a person in their own”—seems to run parallel to Stackhouse’s own project regarding the expansion or porosity of self through textual or artistic encounters. Stackhouse explores thought as poetic procedure and its accidents—lucid dreaming, Freudian slippage, near misses or glimpses: “your sock. Caw. Caw. Caw.” His cerebreality works through a deep engagement with visual art, turning exphrasis inside out, “to write as one draws” and debate the difference between literary mark making and others. “Extractions: From Poet to Draftsman” points to the marginal, theoretical locus of poetry as art:

              They will say,
              this is art, this is drawing, this is A drawing, this is the soul, this is
              the record of the soul, this is like a graph or a series of squiggles

                  or...that is

Such heady quandary finds lightness, or pause, in Stackhouse’s curiously erotic touch—the curve of squiggle, the hesitancy of ellipses. Throughout the book, particulars like “an out of place pubic hair, centipede scurrying” proffer an em- bodied notion of poem-making, one as gestural and surface-oriented as drawing. “long fingers...,” one of Plural’s most textured, exquisite poems, exemplifies his smooth slip and shuffle, different from, say, a Fred Moten-esque break. The long caesura of the line “Our blood, reader, is ample. Our long fingers held in place” suspends a breath or thought amidst writing, loving, or other labors. In “For One,” Stackhouse continues to weave the theoretical with the moving body(ies), “of Blackness / some light / upon such / to center / each step,” reflecting the sociality (each implying every) of this inquiry into transparency. He asks, “‘have / our uses for technology in art/life (artistic practice) as // a ‘translucent’ activity progressed?” This translucence recalls David Hammons’ “Concerto in Black and Blue,” an empty gallery with black light, of which Glenn Ligon writes, “It’s hard 
to leave your body behind, especially when your body is always being thrown up in your face...The question is: How to remove weight...?” Stackhouse’s poetry light- steps between the visual and the literary, the thinking mind and the craving body, offering a provocative perch for today’s poet as interlocutor of contested liminal spaces. On a panel at the 2011 Boog City Poetry Festival, Stackhouse said that if poetry is “not an instrument of social power and betterment of the community then it’s useless.” Plural’s collectivizing collecting, be it Bill Dixon bleats, Arthur Danto quotes, or an ex’s Latin roots, all builds toward one big “One” that is many, generous, and listening for your voice.

                                                                                                     —Karen Lepri 

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