Roland Prevost. Singular Plurals (Chaudiere Books 2014).
In his first book, Singular Plurals, Roland Prevost offers a smorgasbord of his work so far (well, from 2005 to 2010). Thus, letting the reader dawdle among the wide array, picking & choosing, perhaps, what to enjoy. Certainly, there is plenty to choose from, something for almost every taste.
In a note on putting this book together, Prevost writes that ‘in spite of their varied physical forms and voices, they were generated using a single methodology.’ This involved starting with ‘a spontaneous unrestrained image’ & then writing a number of independent triplets derived from that image, recombining lines, cutting & adding together, & ‘choosing an apt form for [the poem] based on its emerging topic and voice. Finally, apply as many edit iterations as needed to complete the work.’ This is an interesting insight into his working methods but says little about what readers will see & respond to. What leaps out at this reader are the many lacunae in the finished poems, all the spaces (of information, speculation, desire, fear, etc) we are invited to (collaboratively) fill in. As in the first 2 couplets of ‘Sing Designer Drug’ (Prevost is very good with titles): ‘museum skeletals / held by wires // what does a simian do for service / among these parts?’ Yet, even if one is unsure where this is going, s/he will acknowledge the wit at play here
What I noticed & appreciated throughout are the quick, sudden shifts of focus, the ever indeterminate stances of the various narrators. I think there are implied narratives throughout, though only sometimes do they emerge clearly, as in the comic violence of ‘Apposable Thumb,’ with its double tale of a kid by the road nearly being hit by ‘half a prefab house / sail[ing] thru the air’ yet lucking out the same evening ‘when two soused women / teachers on a driving vacation / provided a ride & quite an education.’ Appositions rule.
If most of the poems in the first 2 sections of Singular Plurals tend to a fragmentation difficult to parse even while suggesting so many unstated connections, some of the later sections offer slightly more easily read connections: ‘Your operation’s later today. // A white lab coat / plays doctor well, soon / to sew you up. // Ragdoll you. Patch you up. // We’re all under the coin, / tossed; flipped, now or later // Everything in my room whispers, / hums unknown hymns.’
The poems of Singular Plurals depend on a wit that we once called metaphysical for its wild juxtapositions. In their 21st century way, they are sharp, tight, & evasive in a fascinating manner.