Book Review — On Generation & Corruption: Poems

On Generation & Corruption: Poems by Terrence Chiusano is a collection of mostly experimental poetry. Chiusano received his BA in poetry writing from the University of Pittsburgh and his MA in literature from the University at Buffalo. His writing has appeared in Colorado Review, Cordite Poetry ReviewYellow Field, Kenning, Ixnay, and Queen Street Quarterly.

The opening line in the description for this collection reads, “Explores the use of procedural constraints in the production of poetry, prose and prose poetry.” This can be seen throughout the book as sections open with men in two lines of nine marching in pattern. This brought back to my mind the command “Column of twos, from the left, MARCH!” from my time in the Marines. It was, for me, a time of discipline and order. It’s this thinking that Chiusano seems to rebel against in his collection, not against the military, but against the discipline of poetry.

The section named “Rondo” is named for repeating couplets in medieval poetry. Here Rondo means something, and it has to do with reading order. The poem is grouped into numbered sections one through four and this pattern is repeated. Reading in order makes no sense. The reader must figure out the proper pattern of reading before it makes sense. If the reader can’t figure it out, Chiusano explains it in the endnotes.

Chiusano likes wordplay and throughout the book and likes repeating synonyms as part of the writing.

…let’s suppose I gather and hem, tuck and pleat, tab, pin, fold trim..I cut and baste the book like a shirt newly clipped from an old bolt of cloth….

I found the “journal” used part of the collection particularly interesting. It had a form in the date structure, but no “poetic” form:

“july 19, break of day (my returning to you) — let’s say hello again, laugh, kiss, whisper in one another’s ear, let’s meet again on that little garden path — I want to hear your voice like a ring on every finger — what honesty! loyalty! what a chameleon! what a ghost — I’ll never tire of saying it: we’re two coats cut from the same cloth.”

“Abecedary” is well done and true to its definition. At times, it is darker than its original purpose, but the wordplay is excellent.

Without a doubt On Generation & Corruption is not an easy collection. It’s not something that a reader can pick up and read in an afternoon. For less than one hundred pages and having large text, this is a major project for the reader. Chiusano open disregard for standard procedures makes this collection a challenge, but it is a challenge worth taking.

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