A Scalpel Calms the Grief
In Defense of the Short Poem
In A Scalpel Calms the Grief, John Compton's seventh chapbook and ninth book overall, the poet makes a strong argument - using formal choice and ethereal imagery - for the value of even the shortest poem.
In the chapbook's fifth untitled poem, one of ten three-couplet poems, the poet writes, "heat hinders / the physicality." This line, on the surface, as with many of the lines in the book, seems to mean something direct, yet also ethereal and evasive, as if language itself is being described. The line also shows that the emotions in Compton's writing create heat, even without his usual use of concrete and visceral imagery. What this amounts to is a book about language and form, about ideas and limitation, and though it can be read in one short sitting, the poems linger long afterward, begging to be reread, thought about over and over, and I can't help but be excited for how this book expands Compton's experimentation into even more alien - and unbelievable - territory. You're welcome to join in on the adventure.
Katie King. Review coming soon.