Plum Smash

Plum Smash and Other Flashbulbs
By Ryan Gallagher

The Positively Past Post-Modern Poet Series #2 features Ryan Gallagher, one of Bootstrap Press’ founders. Plum Smash and Other Flashbulbs is equipped with poems in the form of personal letters, Shakespeare’s sonnet erasures, & sketches. Gallagher sets the stage for himself as poet, usually sitting at the kitchen table getting high or drinking a gin & tonic.

Gallagher’s poetry is primarily witty & playful as he pokes fun at himself & the Serious Poem: “Quick! Pick up a poodle and punt it/ Before someone writes a meaningful poem.” He creates a namedropping salad of pop icons & celebrities [Drew Barrymore, Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Beck, Elvis, Paul Newman] as well as writers & intellectuals [Bernadette Mayer, Jack Spicer, Pascal, Robert Browning].

Sometimes a poem will get stuck on a particular sound quality. Obsessed with recreating that sound, it will spin around & around, searching it out in as many forms as possible. For example, “pistachio” leads to “pastiche” which leads to “Petruchio.”

His themes recycle through the letters & poems, nearly melding the book into one piece. Clouds were a reoccurring image, described with the ability to “burst” or “scorch” or “drop” “like yellow butter clouds” or a “black eyed susan cloud” “And the clouds, it was gravy” “cotton candied yam colors of clouds.” Clouds, always changing, speckled throughout the book.

As well as weaving the same themes and images throughout his poems, Gallagher acts as a DJ- rewinding & remixing his words, unfolding them out into new combinations, a playback. “New York neon wildflower moon/ blue moon neon wild/ blue     on     on wild/ neon wild on and on / on and on wild neon blue on on.” The most obvious & successful example of this technique is “Poem on Bach’s Goldberg Variation #7” The poem is two stanzas long, the second a mirror image of the first. The reader is walked through the story of two lovers in one direction, & then brought immediately back through it, yet it is impossible to say which direction is frontward & which is backward. It is his skillful remix that makes the poem so strong.

Despite Gallagher’s light tone, pop culture references, & silly jokes, he ends the book on a serious note in “from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71.” It is beautiful in its simplicity & memorable for its black sheep quality. Perhaps it is a joke on us to end this way, or maybe we just didn’t punt that poodle in time.


-Claire Sammons 

categories [ ] login or register to post comments | printer friendly version