Joe Milazzo on Parker Tettleton

June 29, 2012

Joe Milazzo discusses the three poems by Parker Tettleton, as featured in our current issue:

Although I think I must be Emersonian, I’ve learned that I can appreciate repetition’s rhetoric, the confidence with which it eschews an unceasing exploratory unfurl into realms of pristine diction for an abnegation that never turns on the self but rivets it. Maybe Parker Tettleton’s three poems feel gnomic, riddling, telegraphic even, what with nouns doubling as occasional verbs and prepositions lapping themselves. I mean, the feeling they transmit of being full of missing*, it’s urged, or the poems have no time not to trust paradox. A sentence such as “No one’s dead when they’re dying” is perfect common sense, really, but, to be common, most sense has to vulgar it up with euphemism. A line like “Who isn’t inevitable sometimes?” may read as dickishly brusque at first, as if pricking the reader with a flop sweat of “Don’t you know what you’re doing?” Sometimes, this reader that would be me wants to be reminded that sentences are lovely things in which to be imprisoned, or that being, if it is being understood, isn’t free of the risk that afflicts things. “I can’t be in public when I’m in public.” There’s no line break to guide you, much less a meter, but stress is everywhere everything to sorting out the collapsed from what’s about to explode in this cooling universe of saying.

If Parker Tettleton’s three poems make too much of an enigma out of candor, the fault is not the author’s, but rather the expectations with which we’ve burdened the form of the question itself. (I’m coming back around; hold on.) A rhetorical question doesn’t ask: it tells, and mostly what it tells is that listening is telling. OK, so, hear what you have to hear, and what you will hear in Parker Tettleton’s poems is a reverberation much greater than even a end-to-ending of their gaps might enclose.

* These poems have the shape and tone, at times, of the outcome of some deliberate and determined process (e.g., “I’m etcetera in the living room minus a sausage sans zoo.”), something akin to a combinatoric or an acrostic. That this impression could be a ruse makes these pieces all the more the lament, the kind of expression that compels the multiplication of pathos into recitation after recitation.