The Gate (Book Review)














The Gate (An essay in open form)
By Jack Mueller
Lithic Press, 2014

36pp, $20


This is not the kind of work you can put down for a little while and pick back up. It demands that you give yourself over to it, from the start. It’s difficult for me to explain in a linear fashion what this poem is about… and frankly, I don’t know if that’s the author’s intent. Mueller engages in cryptic imagery and great wordplay, and pulls you along, assuming you will engage the work as it is—with no training wheels. I can’t say that I always understood what I read, but the strength and the consistency of the presentation (the line breaks, the stanza construction) shows that the poet does—and that’s the key to a good, difficult work. And the wit Mueller shows here makes me want to go back for a second and third look.

The introduction (printed on the front cover as well as one of the cover pages) by Mueller explains that The Gate evolved out of a notebook of “his own thoughts towards an evolving poetics”. He doesn’t expect you to read the words from left to right, top to bottom… there is something else going on here. Here’s a comparison to comics. Bear with me. In comics there is great attention paid to what goes on between the panels, and to the visual aspect of the story being told. The Gate seems to be working in a similar fashion. I have selected a page of text here for an example (and please accept my apologies for the bowed look of the page. That was my camera, not the author’s intent).

I recommend The Gate without reservation to anyone who wants to luxuriate in language, and come along on Jack Mueller’s trip into the inner workings of poetry and how we interact with it.

-Josh Medsker


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