Short-shot Review

Randall Horton: Pitch Dark Anarchy

(TriQuarterly Books, 2013)

These are poems of breakage and re-assemblage, dislocation and re-affirmation.

     each night brings me one closer

     to the hereafter, more or less

     i stand idle like a mannequin

     stuck inside a window front,

     the reflection projected sill

     puzzling: skin dilemma hung.


                            (from “Anarchy”)

The “pitch dark” of the book’s title suggests both the sense of betrayal and anger that underlies these poems, as well as the blank slate out of which a new vocabulary and a new sense of self(ves) may arise. Unconventional punctuation, line spacing, and capitalization, coupled with various registers of diction, purposely disorient the reader, and yet it’s a disorientation that is perhaps necessary to enact the re-ordering to come:

so much past wrapped in an unknown future

   still, i am black & cherokee, & red clay

              dna from blood

the way human emerges despite fragments.

Horton’s opening poem, “In the Year of our Lord Circa 1840,” draws, it seems to me, quite directly from Charles Olson’s Maximus poems, set along the New England coast; yet Horton’s poem transforms the setting so that is now the site of the Amistad, slave rebellion, and reincarnation. Retrieval and Expansion. The book’s final poem “Dear Reader,”  enacts a difficult if necessary manifesto:

     i want to reverse to erosion


back into unbridled love     dissolve

      the corporeal unmapped & possible


in each epoch suspend the scream—:

     invent accurate yardsticks

                                                          to study

.the unmentioned.     .the unnamed.

     mistakes not to create by evolution.

I admire the verve and the intellect, a voice poised on the edge of a precipice, speaking what is new.