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Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen

Source: Academy of American Poets, part of the membership benefits, with no expectation of review
Paperback, 64 pages
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Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen, 2012 winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and recently added to the National Book Award 2013 long list, could not be more aptly named.  The light passing through this dark hole is that of the narrator’s brother when he commits suicide, forever changing his family and yet changing nothing in the wider world.  There is a balance Rasmussen tries to strike here between the irrevocable change the family, and in particular the brother, feel and the lack of change outside of their microcosm, even in nature where the hunters and sportsman arbitrarily continue to shoot clay pigeons or deer.

From After Suicide (page 4-5)

I wanted to put my finger
into the hole

feel the smooth channel
he escaped through

stop the milk
so he could swallow it

There is a deep sadness in these poems, but also a sense of confusion and desire to understand, even when understanding is beyond our capacity because we are not those who have taken their lives.  We have different experiences and different perspectives, and while we have the capacity for empathy, that is oftentimes not the same — or enough.  The narrator of the poems even acknowledges this when he says in “Elegy in X Parts,” “There is no refuge//from yourself.” (page 36)  It is because we are trapped with ourselves that suicide may seem like the only solution, especially if we are unable to see solutions outside of ourselves.

Rasmussen has some stark images, haunting pictures of death and lifelessness.  There is an emptiness in those vivid moments, which the poet captures with so few brushstrokes.  As the past slips further away, people and moments fade, but their impressions are still felt — as personified by “Monet as a Verb” (page 19).  And although a tragic loss can be scarring, scars fade and heal.  Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen examines the light that leaves our lives in a flash, often unexpectedly and without reason, and how we sometimes grieve for long periods of time afterward and in some cases, even want to follow our loved ones through the same dark hole to find peace, understanding and closure.

About the Poet:

Matt Rasmussen’s poetry has been published in Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, H_NGM_N, Water~Stone Review, New York Quarterly, Paper Darts, and at Poets.org. He’s received awards, grants, and residencies from The Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, and The Corporation of Yaddo. He is a 2014 Pushcart Prize winner, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College. His first book of poems, Black Aperture, won the 2012 Walt Whitman Award and was published in 2013 by LSU Press.

This is my 25th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

 

 

This is my 59th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

  • This sounds like an emotional collection of poems. It is hard to understand when someone takes their own life, especially for the family left behind, so I’m sure these poems are thought-provoking as well. Thanks for the review.

    • Thanks. I really enjoyed this collection. It was well done and is up for the National Book Award