October sings to me like a sexy yodeler, alternating abruptly between chest-voice and falsetto, simultaneously eerie and enchanting, vocal vibrations shaking foliage free. It is fitting then, that Rebbecca Brown’s brilliant prose collection Mouth Trap, Arc Pair Press, 2018, landed with a boisterous thud through my otherwise uneventful mail slot. This is a fascinating, musical, often melancholic collection from an alternate dimension. Brown has crafted dreamy, sometimes nightmarish, micro-worlds that challenge the confines of three dimensions. From the onset, she delivers an intentional, intelligently snarky heft which challenges the reader to engage in immediate self-examination:
Object (pg. 1):
There is nothing to stand and declare loneliness when the wind scratches against saplings—initial here, initial there, toward anything, something seems.
Brown crafts precise catastrophes designed to enlighten and frequently induce hallucination. In doing so, she left this reader feeling sculptured, but not at all fearful:
Not Exactly Clear or There (pg. 3):
She listened to someone singing in a rain soaked sky at the bottom of an ocean. Someone offered fleeting moments and a sack of teeth that clattered and clashed against a touch that smelted numb.
Body parts—sometimes human, sometimes animal, always precise—abound in various contexts resulting in multi-tiered transmogrifications affecting speaker and reader alike. The aforementioned self-examination becomes blurred as reader and speaker are both bodies of aged stardust contorted by the frailty of shared emotion, the uncertainty of voice:
The Circuitry (pg. 23):
There I am—one star, the sickle constellation. It is part and parcel. It is meted out. This is how I tell time etches bodies bright to sallow.
The shadows wrap themselves around my legs and make themselves available in ways lovers never can be. I’ve forgotten the way someone else smells frictive and pleasured. I’ve forgotten who is speaking.
I am reminded of Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s vignette from Waking Life during which he states “Before you drift off, don’t forget, which is to say remember, because remembering is so much more a psychotic activity than forgetting.” As Mouth Trap progressed, I found myself vivaciously embracing the psychotic activity that Brown has embedded throughout this exploration, not needing to remind myself to remember to remember as Brown forced me to confront the past on multiple occasions:
This Began (pg. 35):
You, my blue bird, my bumble bee, my lightning, my white hot streak of pleading, lead me like fission, like fragments of yesterdays colliding through the sight of park swings shifting legs into the sunshine. You, my sentence, my likening, my one word into the next, full of sense and senseless. I’ve forgotten where I’ve lost you. In a pocket, in a figment of the past where the verbs all lie, buried with worms and writhing.
While Mouth Trap resounds with weird zest, Brown maintains room for sweetness and heart, fully considering the need to appreciate and honor those who labor to create:
To the Artist (pg. 36):
I’ve never written to anyone dead before, and since the weather’s in my bones, now I have time to tell you, I respect your work, not to say I’d want the same, all those crossing of lines, dabbling and doodles, the constant trail of cocker spaniels yellowing behind, and since these are inconsistencies, dumb dumb mysteries with no witch to cackle at, throw stones, thank you please. I suppose your hair is fizzling into sticks through triangular stars toward the valleys, where you weren’t, but maybe are, and that’s what I wonder, wish upon, so that I might say somehow, I admire how you hung on the walls like a dead mouth trap.
While I openly admit that I have a soft spot for literary strangeness, I am also objective enough to ignore my aesthetic preferences as I seek literary rarities and complete collections that resonate with intelligence and masterful dedication. Mouth Trap is indeed a rarity in it’s ability to simultaneously convey dynamic human spirit while inducing hallucinations; is stands brazenly atop a peak like a minstrel thought extinct. Brown has invigorated my love of prose poetry and I will psychotically and consciously remember this book until I have danced myself into exhaustion:
The Dancers in the Book are Getting Tired (pg. 60):
Lithe bodies of filament and flesh tirelessly stretch their legs and recline in the dutiful taut of muscle. In the story, they motion toward endings fictitious, firm in coming and going. She says and he says: a body straining to skin and ashes this is where we are and will be. The clock marking page turn and photograph a drying artifact crafts a paper syntax. They extend and bend the pages all the while weary not aware of the worm the moth and cocoon’s wrap.
You can find more about Rebbecca Brown on Goodreads.
Seth Berg is a hatchet-wielding forest-dweller who digs tasty hallucinatory literature. A hot-sauce-addicted pyromaniac with an MFA from Bowling Green State University, Berg fantasizes about flight without mechanisms, alien glyph systems, and snowshoeing through your nocturnal dreamscapes. He is a professor, poet, artifact-maker, and amateur astrophysicist whose mathematically coded collections of poetry will haunt, invigorate, provoke, and inspire you.
Berg’s first book, Muted Lines From Someone Else’s Memory won the Dark Sky Books 2009 book contest. His second book, Aviary, co-authored with Bradford K. Wolfenden II, won the 2015 Artistically Declined Twin Antlers Contest, and was released by Civil Coping Mechanisms in January of 2017. Other poems and short fiction can be found in Connecticut Review, 13th Warrior Review, Spittoon Literary Review, BlazeVOX, Heavy Feather Literary Review, The Montucky Review, Masque & Spectacle, and Lake Effect, among others. Recently, poems were anthologized in GTCPR Volume III and Daddy Cool. He lives in Minnesota with his two supernatural children, Oak and Sage, and his magical better half, Kori. He loves your face.
You can find more about Seth Berg at mutedlines.com and on Goodreads.