The Year of the Rooster
Noah Eli Gordon
The Year of the Rooster offers in its title work a kinetic, convulsive, epic poem that explores and explodes through slippery, circumspect pronouns expectations of gender, the authority of artifice, the act of looking, and the action of thought. Is the rooster a trope? Is he a trooper? Maybe he’s a she and she’s the expectation of masculine bravado he’s trying to unmask. Part action painting, part abstract estrangement, part enactment of the artist’s uncertainty about all things art, the weird world of this poem is forever in flux, off-kilter, unanswerable. Planting bullets in the flowerbed of the sonnet, “Diminishing Returns” and “Returning Diminishments,” two extended, meditative yet humorous suites, bookend the title poem.
from "The Year of the Rooster"
Trick’s no longer to photograph the bullet:
accelerated escapism rearviewed irony ages ago
I’ll atone for the orbit I’m in
for an inked hourglass, stupid sandcastle
O indoors you do me in so delicious, a week’s worth of nature shows
showing nothing of light catching our animals triumphantly ignoring us
Am I seeding or sunning myself, forfeiting
a manual of dignities to feign composure?
Copyright © 2013 Noah Eli Gordon
Noah Eli Gordon comments on a poem from the book at the Poetry Society website.
Robin Edwards interviews Noah Eli Gordon at Show and Tell from the Denver Westword Blogs.
“As a reader, I find that Noah Eli Gordon poses questions I am not prepared to answer. He weaves an intertextual web I cannot hope to disentangle. He confides, ‘Distraction: the best way of looking at anything,’ yet his poems resist distraction and hold me rapt. Am I seeing more clearly or less clearly as a result of reading them? Are these poems a cleverly disguised distraction or an antidote to such distraction? It is hard to tell. Thankfully, near the end of this pleasing, vexing, intractable collection, Gordon provides some reassurance for the frazzled, entropic mind: ‘Understand, the world will always organize itself around your thinking,/ which doesn’t have to be monumental. A megalopolis begins with sand.’” —Julie Marie Wade in The Rumpus
“Gordon’s clever, self-reflexive eighth collection reads like an associative stream of consciousness, an Ashbery-like instantiation of sentience. It’s like being inside the mind of language. The book begins with breathless, running sentences that resist line breaks and extend the breadth of each page, but Gordon interjects a long, eponymous poem that centers around Rooster, who becomes the book’s grounding figure. Stanzas start to find a form through spastic exploration of strange philosophy (‘the stage is a metaphor for the stage’), playful homophones (‘There’s nothing like the present, like the president, like a precedent’), and poetic anthropomorphizing (‘you, yourself, were nothing more than text beneath a poem’s title’). Gordon avoids linguistic gimmickry, and instead invokes the experience of unfettered expression, punctuated by his ability to zoom incredibly close and bring concrete images into focus, like the orange edge of a boxelder bug or ‘the impromptu ballet in a palmist’s index finger.’ A zigzag pattern emerges, only to be subsumed by thick blocks of text that disintegrate into the style of the book’s opening lines. A full-circle engagement with the limits of language.” —Diego Báez in Booklist
“ ‘The Year of The Rooster’ is building toward some new terrain, built up almost impressionistically, like the worlds of Borges or Simic, so that we can’t quite figure out where the walls and doors are, but we have a pretty good sense of the rules. It is a world where ‘[t]he first painting / you’d ever done / is the best you’ll do / not because you didn’t / know what it was / that you were doing / but because you didn’t / know what it was / that you weren’t,’ where, ‘for the rest of your life / you get to be an adult / trying to reconstitute / the age of the egg,’ and where ‘[y]ou don’t plunge headfirst into the pool / First, you make sure someone’s there to see it happen.’ It’s a world where every action is bristling with both the ironic and the painfully serious. Does a cannonball, alone in the pool even create a splash? We’re asked to believe, simultaneously, that it does and it doesn’t. That to ‘make sure someone’s there to see it happen’ is both a real necessity and a self-important ideal. ‘It’s a deafening sound drives through / sincerity,’ Gordon says, and it’s true: there’s a feeling of post-modern ‘Importance” to every line, even in those places where the inquisitions begin to get almost ambient (‘or is it / the light’s / half solicited / by his simple rhetoric?’). . . . Even when Gordon dives into anxiety, it seems brief and vaguely sunny. He’ll call out a fraudulent rhetorical ‘you,’ with ‘your mouth salvaging prude armor of a pride encased by lesser speech with louder reach,’ before undercutting it with instances of diminishing severity: ‘You & Roo’s collaborative poem / on the ills of capital / You & Roo’s condemnation of nudity / with all clothes removed.’ This is just one of the pervasive (and oft-needed) reminders in Year of The Rooster about just how deadly serious and complex everything is, and how the only way to even approach a successful navigation is with a well-tuned sense of humor.” —Joshua Kleinberg in Heavy Feather Review
Noah Eli Gordon is the co-publisher of Letter Machine Editions, an editor for The Volta, and an assistant professor in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press. His recent books include The Source (Futurepoem Books, 2011) and Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007). His essays, reviews, creative nonfiction, criticism, and poetry appear widely, including journals such as Bookforum, Seneca Review, Boston Review, Fence, Hambone, and in the anthologies Postmodern American Poetry (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press, 2011), Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Northwestern University Press, 2011), Poets on Teaching (University of Iowa Press, 2010), and Burning Interiors: David Shapiro’s Poetry and Poetics (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007). An advocate of small press culture, he penned a column for five years on chapbooks for Rain Taxi: review of books, ran Braincase Press, and was a founding editor of the little magazine Baffling Combustions. He lives in Denver with Sommer Browning and their daughter Georgia.