Image of Thousands
Release Date: 
November 14, 2017
Coffee House Press
Reviewed by: 

“Thousands is an experimental confession that discards pedestrian forms to challenge the reader with unique, creative points of view to discover the writer within.” 

Every time I read Thousands, I discover something new: word choice, profanity, enjambment, gaps, experimental grammar, unique line breaks, and curious verbiage in the margins (titles?). Darst also does not write in uniform stanzas, so the reader is forced to interpret the unique placements and lengths of lines. Sometimes stanzas carry multiple lines, while others have one line or a single word.

These tools are used to present a philosophic and confessional collection. Observe the following: “For the presence or absence of giraffes cannot be a philosophical difference. // ? // as a set of symptoms of the wayward intellect // yes.” The poet presents a question using a question mark on its own line: how do images challenge the intellect? Here is another question: “Delete the catharsis. // Do you need it? Yes of course. But do you deserve it?”

These types of introspective questions encapsulate a collection of confessional poems, with experimental lines, about a woman experiencing a frenetic world, one in which a husband, grandmother, and even the teacher’s own students, among others, are impacting the thoughts and emotions of the poet. The poet deliberately poses questions to present the essence of confusion, like so: “x // x // x // a possible blossom, // My life in the records others kept. How I “failed.” // Of course I am a great poet // A storm, the power’s out—thank god.”

And then Darst inserts the concept of “beautiful.” “Beautiful” is an abstraction, a concept, and the reader must have a visual representation of “beautiful” to know what it means. “Beautiful” is different for everyone, so the reader must learn what it means for the poet. The word is used a plethora of times throughout, so the repetition must carry deliberate meaning for the tenor of the collection, and perhaps even the title, Thousands.

Observe the following: “Cut the scalpel down the limb / then notch. A style. Aesthetic, beautiful, but not the way // you think of beautiful. // You think of beautiful. A slick of pages once a woods.” The poet is challenging the reader to consider the definition of a word so abstract that only metaphors can define it. The poet never seems to accurately provide a clear definition for the reader. And thus, one can interpret the tenor of the collection as “thousands” of different ways to be “beautiful” in life.

The poet’s use of profanity throughout also appears to be a tool to reinforce the title. It is deliberate. Although the exact words must be omitted here, the poet references sex multiple times on page 17 to show the solace sex provides. Sex is also philosophical in this collection. The poet questions how sex reinforces and/or confuses human emotions, once again bringing new meaning to the title, Thousands.

The punctuation in the collection must also be scrutinized. Some lines and stanzas have end punctuation and slashes in the middle of words, while others do not. How does the unique punctuation contribute to the confessional arc? Observe: “I slipped my skin / walked off & left myself & left” The use of ampersands and creative punctuation throughout magnify tenacious philosophy—the pursuit of tranquility without a single doubt, even in the words themselves, as encapsulated in the last stanza of the poem: “Lustrous reader, read me— / light the lamp of your likeness over the stamp of mine.”

Thousands is a challenging collection for all readers. It demands attention and interpretation. The poems are focused on content, thus the reader must pause on each page to interpret the line and stanza breaks. The collection has very mature verbiage, which can be distracting when interpreting the confessions of the poet.

The collection is linear, yet several references to memories at different ages might confuse a casual reader. Thousands is an experimental confession that discards pedestrian forms to challenge the reader with unique, creative points of view to discover the writer within.