New Depths of Deadpan
Poetry. Should the two masks that represent Comedy and Tragedy pass through each other (imagine a total eclipse), might not their overlapping intersection be an expression of deadpan? And what about Janus, that janitor in January? Do his back-to-back facial characteristics suggest anything more than the infinite, noncommittal gaze of beginnings and endings? Or does the almost reckless declarativeness of these poems show a mind's weathering both the antic and the intimate, both merriment and distress? Michael Gizzi's previous books include MY TERZA RIMA, CURED IN THE GOING BEBOP, and CONTINENTAL HARMONY.
“What if there is nothing special/ about this particular moment,” asks Gizzi in this 15th collection, which, indeed, gathers together surreal fragments of the everyday to show the kind of world that could only appear in poems. Gizzi, a well-respected experimental poet in his own right, is the elder brother of poet and Nation poetry editor Peter Gizzi. As the title suggests, these poems are deeply deadpan. Poems in prose paragraphs and short stanzas pile up clever, grim and ironic statements to describe surreal places or states of mind. While the poems rarely render a narrative, their emotions are crystal clear, as in this description of a common adult longing for the past: “I must spend a night under the enormous rock I associate with childhood.” Elsewhere, what seems like nonsense turns out to be common sense: “A popular corrective to self-focusing/ would be love.” -- Publishers Weekly
“Someday there is going to be a big edition of the collected poems of Michael Gizzi & readers are going to gasp at the size, scope & quality of all that he has been doing now for more than 35 years… New Depths of Deadpan is going to stand out just possibly as the very pinnacle of his work. It’s a great book, period. Its genius is not just the degree to which Gizzi can make great complexity appear breath-takingly simple, but rather the great sense of humanity in whose service he does this.
The New York School has often been treated as if it were flip or happy-go-lucky… But for every Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch or John Ashbery, whistling in the darkness, there has also been a David Shapiro, Jim Carroll or Joe Ceravolo who have no such trouble showing you their scars (and sometimes your own). Gizzi feels to me like part of this latter group, yet his penchant for tight, well-polished verse suggests that he insists that his poems must be fabulous as well. The amalgam is unique. There is nothing quite like these poems.”—Ron Silliman’s blog 9/21/09
“Part of the originality of Gizzi’s form lies in his use of the enjambment, which interrupts the linear movement of his “prose;” the point…is to cure the reader of the desire for poetic closure. This aesthetics of rupture is of course less marked than in more extreme (and more habitual) exercises in parataxis and discontinuity. Bt it is also more rewarding and unpredictable in terms of what the poems convey when they approach the dialectics of breaks, fissures and continuities, beginnings and endings…. New Depths of Deadpan takes us on a journey through the very fabric of dream and memory, the patchwork of visions that characterizes a singular and distinguished fabulist.”—Michel Delville, Sentence No. 7 (2009)
“Michael Gizzi is an exceptional poet… By No Both (1997) he had attained levels of laughter and heartbreak, farce and wild pathos unequalled in current American poetry. He began to master the whispered yell… Many worthy poets have some of Gizzi’s qualities, but no other poet puts them all together as Gizzi is doing…[He] has indeed taken deadpan to new depths…
Gizzi does not write to impress you with his knowledge or deliver the big effect, but to think on his feet, an act, for him, of doubtful certainty or certain doubt. Open New Depths of Deadpan to any page and you will find short poems whose pleasure are both on the surface and in their aftershocks.”—William Corbett, American Book Review (March-April 2010)
“Michael [Gizzi] has his ear to the ground of the American vernacular…. It is not images or stories, but the constant music of American speech that Gizzi celebrates and dismantles, however grim, disturbing, and dark it might be.” — John Yau, The Brooklyn Rail (Sept. 09)
“Whether or not the title is humorous, the poems always end up surprising with their paratactic twists and turns… The deadpan tone and structure is hypnotic, pulling the reader in and surprising us with “new depths.” My favorite line from the book reads: “Then someone opens an eye in my head. Murmur of subtitles.” Throughout this collection, Gizzi opens an unexpected eye to the strange murmurs of subtitles of our everyday, deadpan lives.”—Craig Perez Santos, Coldfront http://coldfrontmag.com/reviews/new-depths-of-deadpan