Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chapbook Reviews: Two Wakes and Black Sun Over Green Mountain by Michael Sajdak

Michael Sajdak's first published work, under the name Emril Krestle, was a short story in the book Black House Rocked. Since then, he's edited a book of lawsuits by performance artist Jonathan Lee Riches and released three chapbooks of poems (two of which were also written under the name Emril Krestle). I've already reviewed Pan is Dad before. I'll be taking a look at his other two here.

Two Wakes
Outside I can hear the sound of a flag
And an old woman's heart breaking
Under the wheel of a school bus
That is full of little boys and girls pressed into uniform
And some young man has just bought a new suit
Because he got hired at some new business down the street
What distinguishes Two Wakes from Pan is Dad is that the general tone of Two Wakes is more jocular and the themes are more "down to earth." Many of the poems deal with losers and the downtrodden in a humorous manner and several others are heavily nature oriented. Even the more absurd poems are less abstract. For example, one tells a narrative of a man who used to own a "monkey business." He discusses how the business grew and eventually went bankrupt. He later recounts how he unwittingly upset a bar tender by discussing it.

Another poem is about the childhood of Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with a slave named Jupiter. It shows how they developed a deep bond despite being master and slave and laments how Jupiter has largely been forgotten by history. 

This chapbook seems to have been intended to be read as whole than as a collection. None of the poems are titled and the thematic similarities are very strong between each one.

My only problem with this chapbook is the formatting. The font doesn't fit with the design of the book, and it's far too small and cramped in relation to the pages. Other than that, this is yet another solid collection of poetry on the same level as Pan is Dad.

Two Wakes is currently out of print. I'll update if Sajdak releases a second edition.

Black Sun Over Green Mountain
In the cool, blue deserts of Thebes one night
A shiny blue-gold scarab is rolling its dung
A breeze swings a slum bandit's hammock
Unnoticed, an ancient evil awakens
While Two Wakes is more "down to earth", Black Sun Over Green Mountain is mystical. Many of the poems explicitly deal with Christianity. "Last Supper," of course, is a recounting of the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples. "Race of Cain, climb the sky!" is about a mysterious group that watched Cain grow up, and may have convinced him to slay his brother, Abel.

Other poems deal with other types of mysticism. "The Mummy," quoted above, is humorous poem about the resurrection of a mummy from the perspective of a piece of its cloth that fell off. "The Hanged Man" is a meditation on the tarot card.

In addition, there are several poems here that are self-referential about poetry. "Roggenbuck" is a humorous poem about doing a reading with the poet Steve Roggenbuck that's incredibly hostile both to the audience and to Roggenbuck. "Absolutely scatological" is a parody of modern poetry that uses scatological imagery to make (often radical leftist) political points.

While Pan is Dad was angry and sarcastic and Two Wakes was jovial, Black Sun Over Green Mountain has a sense of defeat in the tone. That it's the shortest with the most minimalist poems as well gives it a feeling like a lost spirit floating about.

This one you should only really pick up if you enjoyed Sajdak's other poetry books. It's just as solid as the others, but the brevity and sense of finality in it makes it more appropriate to be read in the context of his other work.

Buy Black Sun Over Green Mountain here.