Zachary Schomburg – from the fjords. Spork, 2010. $10. Reviewed by Clayton T. Michaels.
With the publication of 2009’s Scary, No Scary, Zachary Schomburg cemented his status as one the most compelling and original poets publishing today. As with his debut full-length The Man Suit, his less-is-more aesthetic, which relies primarily on repetition to create rhythms and build tension, made Scary, No Scary both incredibly readable and deceptively dense; it holds up to multiple readings and reveals something new each time.
Schomburg’s latest is from the fjords, a chapbook from the ultra-hip Spork Press, and it is another fantastic collection from a poet who seemingly can do no wrong. This is not to say, however, that from the fjords is a kind of Scary, No Scary redux; in some ways, the poems in this chapbook are a departure from Schomburg’s usual style. For starters, the repetition that was such a large part of his previous work is much less frequent in this collection, making it seem more varied than some of his previous work; each of the prose poems in this chapbook could stand alone instead of seeming like parts of a longer sequence. There is, however, still a great deal of thematic unity that makes the lack of repetition seem more like a natural evolution in style than some kind of radical reinvention. His characteristic dark sense of humor is still very present in these poems, too: for example, in ‘Meat Counter,’ the speaker wakes up inside the meat display case in his grandfather’s grocery store; in ‘New Job Serving Fried Pies,’ the speaker’s three co-workers mysteriously drop dead inside their pie trailer; and in ‘The Donut Hawk,’ the speaker is hunting, as the title would suggest, hawks made out of donuts.
Any review of from the fjords would be incomplete without a mention of the look of the chapbook itself. From a purely aesthetic perspective, Spork is putting out some of the best looking chapbooks around—with their letterpressed rawboard covers and hinged spines, they look like hardback children’s books from the 1970’s, and each book comes with a two-color vinyl sticker of the book’s cover art. A lot of time and care clearly goes into the design of each chapbook, which is one more reason to own a copy.