Schomburg’s newest book, Fjords, Vol. 1 holds true to this idea of finding familiarity in a parallel consciousness. Just because the poems often work in a seemingly private dreamscape, doesn’t mean you aren’t invited to into the strangeness, asked to ascend and descend into the illusory.
A few years ago I saw Zachary Schomburg read from his books, The Man Suit and Scary, No Scary at a release party for Columbia Poetry Review in Chicago. The imaginative quality of his poetry—not just the surreal beauty of the language and images, but more the idea that you could actually feel his personal imaginings seeping into the poems—made the experience seem significantly more intimate than a typical reading.
His newest book, Fjords, Vol. 1 holds true to this idea of finding familiarity in a parallel consciousness. Just because the poems often work in a seemingly private dreamscape, doesn’t mean you aren’t invited to into the strangeness, asked to ascend and descend into the illusory:
You are behind a wall of animals tying your shoes
in the blackness. I am in front of the wall of animals
tying my shoes in the brightness. This is the world.
Trees are blooming into bright lightbulbs, and then
the lightbulbs fall and crash.
At the end of February, The Poetry Foundation will host a collaborative showcase of Fjords, Vol. 1 as a multimedia event, “toeing the line between live scored cinema and performance art.” The show (which runs four days), will feature puppetry, live silhouette, video and slide projection. There is even a trailer (you can view it here) that might give you a taste of not only The Poetry Foundation performance but also Fjords, Vol. 1 depth and beauty as a collection. The fact that Schomburg’s poems have been adapted from text to visual and performance art is unsurprising—the work asks to be enacted, physically embraced, shaken, torn, swallowed, smothered, and reborn.
Schomburg’s Fjords, Vol. 1, like any true piece of art that is working in the subconscious space, taps into a “darkness.” Or should I say, The Darkness. The ultimate, end-all experience of life—death: “I was in bed when the black angel of death flew into / my room from the open window and started kissing /me on the neck. It felt like a bag of jagged rocks.” You can’t avoid the reality that most of this book is covered in death, often happening in a grotesque fashion, sometimes to the point of absurdity and therefore hilarity. Deaths and killings, deaths of the neighbors, deaths of the author, even death after being dead: “I am the dead person inside me.” Much like in his previous books, Schomburg’s images, both gloriously unsettling and elegantly violent, aim to “generate their own energy through emotional confusion,” a phrase Schomburg himself used in an interview for The Oregonian.
Because of this, it becomes hard to read the aforementioned “poem-dreamlands” without recognizing the possibility that these may also be “poem-afterlives.” I think, as a reader, Schomburg offers you the chance to choose your own fate. You can read Fjords, Vol. 1 as a fearless exploration of our own disintegration and deletion, or you can read it as a text that determines our greatest fears and gracefully releases us from the anxiety of them: “We could have predicted how she would run / around like a piano was about to fall on her, how / her eyelashes would become wires to hold all our / blackness up.”