Book Review: Closer by Christopher Soden

by Christopher Soden
QUEERMOJO/A Rebel Sartori Imprint, 2011
ISBN 978-1-60864-045-4

Closer, Christopher Soden’s first full length poetry collection, published by Queermojo/Rebel Sartori Press, is a rich and provocative collection that circles and re-circles human experience, honing in on sex, love, self, loss, memory, regret, and place. Soden’s voice is expansive–in turn pensive, tender, vehement, ecstatic, reverent, irreverent, intimate, ironic, conversational, oratorial–and his poems teem with hard-won existential perspective.

The power of Soden’s poems often seems to hinge on a vital blurring between the surreal and the real, the mythic and the everyday, the mundane and the fantastical, the concrete and the metaphysical. Even the causal world is worthy of redemption, and the divine world subject to passion: “Some collisions are sacred. Some angels / restless and fierce.”

While Soden’s work is infused with an indelible sense of longing, to get closer, his poems grapple with the difficult realization that we can only get so close, that distance–both literal and metaphorical–is unavoidable and inevitable. Desire is “…keen /and negotiable as a blade / across the open palm.” Intimacy is paradoxical, embodying space and proximity, pleasure and pain: “From the moment your black eyes / intersected with mine, a wound / began to seethe.”

Soden draws, with lyrical prowess, on the particularity of place, amplifying it to echo the futility and motion of the human condition:

Why bother when you can surrender
to the stolid, hypnotic dance of newspapers
dragging in a rough wind, the hum
of cicadas playing voiceless dirges,
the sparkless flint of dry wood and road
kill bone, the tinder of aimless rage?

Existence is fleeting, but, nonetheless, firmly rooted in the harsh sensuality of earth: “I do not know how / the world keeps pulling me back.” One comes away from this collection with the sense that redemption lies ultimately within the self, and in the longing to transcend the self: “I am the man who yearns for a way back / to himself and actual wings, and so pulls / other men up to taste and see / who I am… / I am the man who lets go.” Closer is a powerful and cathartic collection that invites immersion and revisiting. Soden’s poems are portals to consciousness, drawing on quiet and not-so-quiet moments of being–they simultaneously mourn and celebrate the random plan of human existence.


Filed under: Book Review, Poetics, Prose