Cleaning the Mirror: Selected and New Poems by Joel Chace
(BlazeVox Books, Buffalo, 2007)
I requested a review copy of Cleaning the Mirror after reading one of William Allegrezza’s “Daily Glances” which commented on it. So, before recommending Mr. Chace’s book to you, allow me to recommend Bill Allegrezza’s frequent capsule reviews of contemporary poetry books—a practice which is a truly useful labor of love.
Prior to seeing Bill’s review I knew nothing about Chace’s work. Bill’s appreciation quoted this passage from which the title of the collection derives:
he kept cleaning
cleaning the mirror kept
finding himself knew
if he kept cleaning he'd
find the new way to
pose just kept cleaning found
the new waves that
ocean those sheets of
I was hooked. I wanted to find out more about this poet I hadn’t previously read. I was curious, too, about Allegrezza’s suggestion that this volume read like an ongoing poem.
Unlike Bill I don’t feel as if Cleaning the Mirror can be read as a single poem. My inclination is to read it as a kind of dialectical struggle between an often almost prosaic narrative tendency and a tendency toward lyrical lines of flight (lines of flight which are sometimes broken by default kinds of thinking). I think it most accurate to say that there might be a long poem struggling to get out than that one has been achieved.
I think Chace’s work, as presented in this selected poems, is at its best when his words float across the page, when his song is simple and composed of one and two syllable words where one can “listen to the/long/song/who’s/mad/enough to leave/the long/song” and hear and feel that joy of elemental singing.
I think Chace’s work struggles with what and how to write. It is imperfect work, in an imperfect world, achieved in a perfectly honorable way. Check it out.
Tom Beckett is a curious person. Of late, Rebecca Loudon and Crag Hill have been answering all of his questions.