Karen J. Weyant

A Review of Neil Flory's mudtrumbones knotted in the spill

Neil Flory
mudtrombones knotted in the spill
Arteidolia Press
ISBN: 978-1-7369983-7-3
Published: February 2023
84 pages
$12 + p&h
available through Lulu

                Today’s poetry is often defined by the line and the image; yet, too often reviews of poetry collections focus on the latter. How does the poet use images to tell a story or convey a feeling? How does the poet avoid abstract words? How does the poet use lively, yet unique imagery to avoid using cliches? Certainly, all of these are important questions to answer, yet little attention is given to the idea of the poetic line and its power in a poem. Luckily for the reader, Neil Flory, in his debut collection, mudtrombones knotted in the spill, masters both the poetic line and the art of the image in a mosaic, yet somewhat cynical, view of the world.
                Flory opens his book with a poem titled “beansproutgrasses.” It’s with this first poem that we see a masterful blending of imagery and line, but also a playful use of language:

               Already, we are seeing an investigation of jumbled language and form with an introduction of a character who starts a simple chore but gets lost in his thoughts and in doing so, gets lost in the world around him.
               Other poems continue this experimentation with form. Many feature narrators who observe the world in a stream of consciousness fashion. For instance, the female character illustrates her paranoia in “The Thousand Crows” where she scolds the crows that are scattered around her: “shut up you stupid imbeciles just look what you’ve done just/shut up shut up right now.” Indeed, her words make no difference as the birds “paid no heed just kept screaming and screaming caw caw caw/caw caw caw caw caw caw caw caw until the distant wandering trees/began to gather again their many fallen leaves.” Flory uses a similar technique in “Act” where a narrator displays both paranoia and anger at the world around him by asking “why did the sunlight yell at me.” He also remembers childhood advice as he imagines the sidewalk cracks talking to him: “we’ve got enough of/our own problems trying to survive in this outrageously unstable/trash bin of a world.” Indeed, the sidewalk cautions him by “don’t step on any of us unless you want to break/someone’s back.” Flory, in both poems, takes on a Herculean task of conveying the thoughts of characters who are clearly distraught. In doing so, we, as readers, become more sympathetic to their specific plights.
                Still, for those who may be a bit intimidated by the forms they see on the page, there are other, more traditional poems in this collection. For instance, in “the gathered” an unnamed narrator, somewhat cynically, observes the world:
                              The pecking order was established then
                                             revisionist histories/symbologies/meditations
                              given out on the small flaps of matchboxes also
                                                            advertising cheeseburgers/brake jobs

                Flory also shines with many of his shorter poems that focus on images. For example, in the seemingly simple poem “hail” he describes a hailstorm as “shrapnel salads” while in the poem “islands” the poet considers the relationship between islands and the river by suggesting that “it’s the islands that spew full putrid/stench/while the river’s wildly blindingly/luminous.” With both poems, the narrator is pushed to the background, allowing Flory to write simple observations that are both unique and just a bit unsettling.
                Blending the craft of the poetic line with strong and precise imagery, Flory’s poems all examine the chaos around us. The unnamed narrators in his works are cynical, anxious and often afraid. Their observations of a cluttered world are cataloged in careful detail, as if trying to bring order to both their own minds and the world at large. One would think that such a world is ugly, but somehow in Flory’s careful words, a reader will find beauty and, in some cases, even hope.

Karen J. Weyant's poems have been published in Chautauqua, Cold Mountain Review, Crab Orchard Review, Harpur Palate, Lake Effect, Poetry East, Rattle, River Styx, Spillway, Slipstream, and Whiskey Island. Her first book of poetry, Avoiding the Rapture, will be published by Riot in Your Throat Press this fall. She lives, reads, and writes in northern Pennsylvania.
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