They and We Will Get into Trouble for This
There is a certain sense of streaming consciousness carrying the pages of Anna Moschovakis’ new collection of poetry They and We Will Get into Trouble for This. Reading though the manuscript is like diving into a deep pool contained within a cavern, the resonance and echoing qualities provide such distinction, it is impossible to confuse the experience of this reading with anything else. And that is the flow that swims the reader’s sensibility into the depths of this collection.
This may be called a collection, but the work has a cohesive quality that transcends what would be considered the normative collection of poetry. The pages of this new work share a cohesiveness as if each word and sentence were cut from the same fabric, yet in actuality the author has taken multiple streams of thought and given them common matter through the structure she has created. And it is that common matter that creates such a powerful force driving a reader through this work.
Structure is the operative word in the life of They and We Will Get into Trouble for This. Each page is footed with a running narrative that travels the length of the book, a wavering line made up of multiple thoughts related to each other through comparison, purpose, wordplay, and most of all, through structure. At first glance it would seem the running footer would provide the cohesive thread of the work, but that is not the case. It provides cohesion, indeed, but the greatest additive effect of the footer is in its alternative voice.
It is almost as if a reader has the opportunity to look down into a room filled with people, all engaged in focal cell-like conversations, the background hum of the room providing an additional essence for observation, and then, added to all of that, comes the snaking line of the footer, yet another event circumscribing the details of the room in their entirety. That is the essence that They and We Will Get into Trouble for This brings in its poetic existence and that essence ends up as a complete and satisfying whole in and of itself.
Moschovakis has laid out this sense of overview from the very beginning with the words and structure of her running footer and the placement of brackets to both group and separate thoughts:
[ WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE ROOM ] [ HOW WE ARE IN THE ROOM ]
[ WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE ROOM ] [ HOW WE ARE IN THE ROOM
] [ THE ROOM IS FULL ] [ THE ROOM IS UNBREAKING ] [ THE ROOM IS
BROKE ] [ HOW IS THE ROOM ] [ WE ARE ] [ IN THE ROOM ] [ WHAT
IS HAPPENING ] [ IN THE ROOM ] [ BRACKETED ] [ BY CONVICTION ]
The narrative poetry that follows, more or less the bulk of each page, becomes a glimpse into multiple streams of thought, as reflected in this excerpt of the book’s first page from its first section, PARADISE / (FILM TWO):
I don’t know a thing about paradise || In my house nobody ever brought
it up || In college I learned about Kierkegaard’s knights || the knight of
resignation || and the knight of faith || I wanted to be a knight of faith
|| as did the professor || and everyone else in the class || I assumed || I
was born in paradise || and raised in science || The semester I studied
Kierkegaard || I also took calculus || which I failed || I fell in love || with
the sounds of cypresses || in the wind || There is a female cypress ||
and the male cypress || and it was the male I loved || That same semester
I also read || The Symposium || by Plato || in Walter Hamilton’s English
translation || You will remember
“The medium,” as Marshall McLuhan once said, “is the message.” The structure Moschovakis has created in They and We Will Get into Trouble for This brings a strong sense of its own to the work and codifies its presence on both macroscopic and microscopic levels. Once one has dug a pathway into the depth of her work, it is not surprising to discover that the author studied philosophy or that she worked in film. Both a sense of the reality of the surreal and a distinct cinéma vérité quality are present within this book’s pages.
“She takes on the big questions by way of unusual details,” Bookforum has said, but there is more. It is not just the big questions that Moschovakis assaults in her scaling of the poetic mountain. In some sense, she has so structured her approach as to have created her own version of the mountain and that attribute has such an inviting quality that They and We Will Get into Trouble for This is a book that begs to be read.
This work is compelling for any reader and this volume may very well add a companion award to the James Laughlin Award Moschovakis garnered for her previous work, You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake. And if that happens, it will be good, as that will bring more readers into the delight of Moschovakis’ work.