Milazzo Breaks with Tradition to Create Unburdened Poetry
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Experiments break out on the pages of Joe Milazzo’s 2018 collection, Of All Places In This Place Of All Places, published through Spuyten Duyvil. The work as a whole is best described through the poet’s own words. The text is, “only stray candy only / voices sounding their cor anglais / ultraviolets languisthing light not vision not heat”. His work is like a cloud, a being of shape and form but still nearly immaterial.
His first piece, untitled as all the poems are, is perhaps the most restrained work in the collection. It is a charming opener. The way the verses are laid out intrigue the eye and its words will paint a scene where rays of light drift through a window in the reader’s mind. Milazzo is an expert at manipulating mood but at times his experiments with form seem to go too far. Reading his poems could be compared to gazing upon a deconstructed Matisse. Beautiful and engaging but the reader cannot be sure exactly why.
Milazzo’s poems seem to approach the reader for a handshake and nothing seems odd at all about it. The necessary appendages for such an interaction are visible and extended, but then, just at the point of contact, the reader discovers that they are shaking hands with air. The poem stands in front of them smiling politely, moving its arm up and down as one does when shaking hands but the poor reader stands there flabbergasted, wondering where the hell did the hand go? This collection drops readers into a kind of fairy land where everything is beautiful, ethereal and just barely translatable for the human mind.
There are only a few poems which cause genuine anxiety or frustration. These pieces abruptly end and appear to be missing a final word or phrase. Obviously, it is a deliberate move by the poet, but this stylistic choice may drive a wedge between some readers. While many will think that this format adds to the overall prowess of the collection as it allows the readers to fill in the blanks on their own, others may find themselves feeling a bit abandoned by the piece.
Although some individuals may hold this collection suspect, it cannot be said that Milazzo misleads prospective readers. The title itself gleams with a mischievous aura that warns readers that traditional poetry does not wait within these pages. His poems swirl “…like all dead ancestors’ dead spirits” and refuse to be pinned down.
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