The complex association and allegory at work in Szpurlok's Embryos & Idiots is, at first glance, somewhat confounding. I am troubled, if that is the right word, because I cannot immediately obtain linear meaning. However, as I read and re-read, as I immerse myself in the sounds and semantics of the language, it becomes apparent that Szpurlok's collection avoids denotation (and celebrates its own associative and connotative systems) as a means to challenge the linear and representational modes of the myths the collection delights in undermining. Szpurlock's production of a mythic narrative (and her dissolution of that narrative) is a feminist critique of and response to the phallo-centric and patriarchic myths of Genesis and Paradise Lost. While this assignment places the collection in the realm of the public manifesta, the collection operates in the private sphere as well. In a number of instances in Book 1, the speaker breaks away from the allegorical narrative to question her audience. These questions represent an ongoing rhetorical trope of what seems to be poetic doubt. In the final line of "Boulders," the speaker asks "This Century wants anything. Is that a soul?" In "Idol": "Anoton spilled the secret- wouldn't we all to get what we want?" In "Reaper,"Does it matter what we're made of?" In "Passive-Aggressive Music": "and what's so important that it makes / you forget, like ammonia, everything? In "Naves and Navels," "Does anyone know? We who are old and full of words?" These types of questions are rampant in the first section of Embryos & Idiots and they are significant because they represent Szporluk's doubt yes, but also her need to validate her (anti-)myth (non)narrative. Her readers, it seems, have a crucial role to play in this process. Everyone else is either an Embryo or an Idiot.
In other news, I’m preparing submissions to American Poetry Review and New Ohio Review. I hope everyone is fortunate enough to be spending time with family and friends this week. Check out this Thanksgiving poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar to get into the holiday spirit. My favorite is: “Oomph! dat bird do' know whut's comin'; /Ef he did he'd shet his mouf.” Happy Thanksgiving!