Friday, December 18, 2015

A Review of non-zero-sum, by Jack Galmitz

 (Impress 2015)
By Joey Madia
As Founding Editor of www.newmystics.com, which hosts pages for seventy authors and artists from around the world, I have the opportunity to give the creators of innovative and thought-provoking poetry a forum for their work.
In cultivating the e-publisher/author relationship, I am sometimes asked to review additional work by an author. In the case of Jack Galmitz, in 2014 I reviewed three of his chapbooks—Objects, Yellow Light, and A Semblance. During the course of our correspondence, Galmitz wrote that his poetry is based on “the indeterminacy created by ambiguity—sometimes two words that are joined together when left alone on the page makes one realize there are many ways to take them and this leaves doubt and makes one look and be aware of what is there and this is the purpose I think of art.”
This philosophy brings to mind some of my current favorites in the poetry world—Heller Levinson and Eileen Tabios. They share Galmitz’s ability to create works that require the reader in relationship for them to reach full bloom. One cannot read their poems, nor review them, in a traditional way.
This is especially true after reading Galmitz’s recent chapbook, non-zero-sum, which consists of a few dozen poems, all three lines each, in a 33-page pdf, a total  that includes three blank pages at the end. The book can be “read” in 15 minutes or less—or you can spend hours with it, over time, mining the riches that the brevity and imagery provide. This is what I suggest. Making an interpretation of the title and the blank pages, one might say that non-zero-sum indicates a crucial dependence on outside factors, such as the contributions made by the reader to the process.
Following on from this interpretation, I have chosen half a dozen of the poems to reprint here. After each, I share what I took from them in the way of interpretation and, more importantly, personal inspiration. Like a Buddhist koan or a sutra—or our dreams—what we take from them is unique to the individual experiencing them.
“The room full
of cardboard boxes
empty”

I take this as the collection itself, the room being the book. The poems are the cardboard boxes, left empty to be filled with what the reader chooses to put in them.

“While they're in the air
listen to the leaves falling
there”

Of all of the pieces in this collection, this one operates most like a Buddhist koan or a sutra, similar to, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” There is no right or wrong answer—simply engage your senses on the imagery of the leaves… how do they look? How do they sound? You could spend a great deal of time with just this poem.

“A mushroom cloud
rising in the distance
iphones steady”

A commentary on the ubiquity of cameras in modern life, this poem, to me, also signifies that getting the “shot”—be it still or video—for your Instagram, Facebook, Vine, or Snapchat—is the motivating factor of the moment, not the larger historical/sociopolitical implications of what you are witnessing. The word “steady” is key to me. A major nuclear event happens right in front of modern Techno sapien, and our subject remains unpanicked. As I share in my interactive bullying education and prevention workshops, so much of what our teenagers see is through the frame of a computer, ipad, or phone… and that makes everything look like TV and film, which leads to a dangerous disengagement.

“A glass vase
holds a warped table
& a white rose”

I chose this poem for a few reasons, the first being that it requires the reader to place trust in the craftsmanship and specificity of the poet. Each word was chosen with intent, just as each seemingly random drip and splatter of a Jackson Pollock painting is intentional, or made to be so through further intention.

What is the visual image of a vase holding a table? A warped table, at that? What might it mean? The limitations of physics take us from the literal into the metaphorical. The symbolism of the white rose adds an additional dimension. This three-line, 10-words-and-an-ampersand poem holds limitless possibilities for contemplation, a story prompt, or the raw material for a visual expression through a painting or picture.

“Every Sunday
at the sea
there’s a sermon”

Having grown up at the Jersey shore and lived near the ocean in Maine and also currently in North Carolina, I have known many fishermen and have read more than my share of Conrad, Melville, and Hemingway, so this poem speaks to me of the sea and the hard, dangerous life of those that ply their trade on its treacherous waters, and the role of Faith, Belief, and Prayer in the lore of their lives. And I have also seen enough sunsets and storms upon the water to know that the sea itself  provides its own transcending sermon in the prayer of water and wind.

“At the rectory
under the bare bulb
two men shooting up”

This one resonates like a scene from film noir. It contains point/counterpoint, and could almost be considered what is now called “flash fiction,” an example of which is Hemingway’s “For sale, baby’s shoes, never worn.”

Galmitz’s poetry is provocative through its efficiency, reminding us all of the power of words. In an age of 140-character “tweets” he reminds us that a small number of words need not be mundane nor meaningless.






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