Chuck Stebelton, The Platformist, The Cultural Society Brooklyn, 2012
Reviewed by Paula Anderson
The review of Chuck Stebelton book could start with exploring the title The Platformist: someone who sees the world from a platform above earth with an objective untouchable view(?); a member of the Workers Anarchist Movement in Ireland(?); a diver waiting for the right moment to spring into the melee of earth’s chaos(?); or it could be something entirely different. The fun is in the wondering and then finding the poetry matching your hypothesis.
Chuck Stebelton’s poetry is enticing and rewarding. His is the lyric poetry your mind can feed upon. The fodder for chawing and gnawing and wondering how often a single line will send you to your computer to look up a word or seek your portable OED as company in your reading chair or even to a notebook to write a poem inspired by his words. Take this line, “I would rather not jump in front of our minutes” (3rd stanza in the poem “Precious”). It matters what Stebelton meant by the line, but his words energize your mind. His words start you scrutinizing the possibilities. Does it mean you should stop and smell the roses or collect precious available minutes to re-live or, maybe, you could write a poem from the same line about the word “jump.” Is that a key to a belief that when we jump we are exhilarated and mindless, causing later minutes to change irrevocably into tragedy? In other words, reading Stebelton is not a soothing melody nor full of grace but could pull you into a new exuberance.
Stebelton celebrates words. His lexicon is the ordinary pressed into extraordinariness by placement, but saying that is too simple. Coleridge's words, Poetry—the best words in the best order do apply to The Platformist and you enjoy the cadence. The words are so artfully chosen; you play with multiple ideas to seek your own favorite version of a poem.
His longest poem “The Aspiration Gene” begins with this stanza:
I divorced my own orchid. His pitting core
is a just entendre. Nets in his soup
recall a colonial forest. The nativist trees
knotted direction, diversion. Aspiration
thought it meet. Winds in the exhale
thin like reeds. A dais for piney tops
to stay the accent gene. Project…
He’s a conjurer. Nearly all poets try to do the same thing, showing us a different place to see and feel, but his place is complex. I find reading the poetry aloud adds understanding and resonance.
There is humor as well, as in the poem “Valentine.”
Don’t suffer it
As long as the plot thickens.
A numerical weed
Sunday or spill night
as lettuce in a gale.
Unlikely in the straw
An apple bobbing
Stebelton references flowers/weeds/birds/minerals/insects/sky in many of his poems. Maybe to keep you gently grounded by allowing a touch of nature’s permanence however fleeting.
Hundreds of phrases and words impeccably chosen keep you reading and thinking about The Platformist.
Paula D. Anderson writes while gazing into the Rooky Woods which is part of the Kettle Moraine and her back yard. She also publishes Echoes, a poetry journal.