Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: 'True Stories from the Future' by A. Molotkov

Adoration of the Sprouting Question: Some thoughts on True Stories from the Future by A. Molotkov
In his collection True Stories from the Future (Boone’s Dock Press, 2011) Anatoly Molotkov writes a poetry that I can only describe by means of paradoxes: the work is genially unsettling, laconically digressive, enigmatically limpid, serenely Kafkaesque. From its first pages it opens up some big philosophical issues, and invites us as readers to enter a space of questioning. Each and every poem in this book is remarkably lucid in its expressive gestures, but wonderfully, the book is constantly questioning its own apparent transparency, reminding us that all acts of attentive reading are acts of endless translating.
 If this book had an epigraph, it could easily have been these lines from Wallace Stevens’  poem ‘On the Road Home’: “There are many truths, /But they are not parts of a truth.” Molotkov gives us his version of this idea in his opening poem ‘The Truth’:

            maybe flawed hands
            exert a perfect touch
            maybe the truth
            is a lot of lies
            mixed together
There is no place in Molotkov’s vision for the truth, for some grand narrative that does violence to the small provisional truths of dailiness; there is no place for an inhuman perfectionism. On the contrary, he acknowledges what the title of another poem names as ‘The Painful Impossibility of Correction’.  As another poem ‘Broken Birds’ says, “we go on tangents/  and get defensive” ;  we are all “people with cracks”, as he puts it elsewhere.
 I am tempted to read Molotkov’s short lyric ‘Questionless’ as a kind of ars poetica for his work:
               when my life was empty
               I planted question marks along my path
               now that leaves have sprouted
               I can no longer recall
               what my questions used to be
 This is a poem which both extols the value of rigorous questioning but also suggests that poetry can take us beyond an openended skepticism, that the act of writing poems (and reading itself, perhaps) is restorative, nourishing,  and vivifying; that each strategic answer is a strategic cure for the corrosive, glittering flow of the official Truth (i.e “ a lot of lies”). In ‘Hunger for Information’ Molotkov concludes with a wish:
              may your story remain
              may it be
Endless?  Yes, in the sense that the narrative of a finite life lived authentically may keep going on into the future and retrospectively illuminate the past by the sheer ethical force of its authenticity. As Molotkov says in the poem ‘Invitation’ with which this book concludes:
if there is a room
at the end of your life
with its door open
its windows
its butterflies
are you coming?

are you there yet?

are you here?
This lovely book, as Molotkov might say,  involves us in the rhythm of the truth that is many truths.
© Ger Killeen