This elegant chapbook of thirty poems by the US poet Michael Fallon was the winner of the 2011 Plan B Press poetry chapbook contest–and a very fine and worthy winner it is too.
With the exception of the concluding poem “Trial” where,
“In a closet, in a Norwegian insane asylum,
Joan of Arc weeps copious tears,”
all the poems are personal, eleven or twelve line, elegiac meditations on the subject of death, loss and the void left in their wake. Fallon writes, “What is poetry but losing,/ a quarrel with loss?“.
The series begins with the wail of “Siren”, “A scream in search of a mouth“, a primal opening and a portent of what is to come as “A gurney lifts into the air” and we are sucked into the “Double doors” of the ambulance and what may follow after. The poems then proceed via tales of death and images of January, Winter, February, thaw, Spring, Summer, more death and departure and on to Autumn. Yet we end up looking backwards to the memory of Summer, in the ruined remains of the “July Cathedral” with its,
“…roofless warehouse, its arched
windows of air, its cargo of cornflowers,
Queen Anne’s lace whirling in blue and white thousands
about our knees? Underfoot, shattered brick,
blackened timbers, the smell of old fires.”
The series concludes with the one poem longer than twelve lines, in which (from the accompanying notes) we learn that, “The only existing copy of the Passion of Joan of Arc, a silent black and white film, made in France in the twenties, was found in a Norwegian insane asylum in the 60’s.” There is a sense of at least one thing returning from the void, but also,
“Against all argument, all doubt,
each of us is a war of voices:
saints and inquisitors,
self or soul,
we hover in belief.”
The “war of voices” that is the chapbook Since You Have No Body is a lyrical and poignant exploration of doubt, loss and potential hope. Fallon is blessed with a turn of phrase and a strong, consistent voice which put many modern poets to shame.
Since You Have No Body is available from Plan B Press at planbpress.com.