Don't be misled: The Solipsist is the best chapbook you'll read this year.
J. Gordon
3/14/2009 9:25:02 PM

Don’t be misled: poet Troy Jollimore cautions in the first line of his opening poem for the chapbook of the same name, The Solipsist [Bear Star Press], “that sea-song you hear / when the shell’s at your ear? / It’s all in your head.

Well, perhaps the meanings and feelings are there in the head, but the music is in the ear, and throughout much of the work of this perfect little chapbook. For those of you who are thinking, Jollimore, Jollimore, I’ve heard the name…who is he again? Well, you probably remember him best as the author of the Tom Thomson poems from Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award last year.

Jollimore, a philosopher by day, yo-yos back and forth, often within the same poem, from naked emotion to plain truths: which, at the end of the day, is the greater fool: / our horse, or its rider. Then, he gets thoughtful in poems such as “Regret” with a page and a half of double-negative so heartbreaking you’ll want to pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind operation as you relate it to your own sad stories.

Tom Thomson, who may be this poet’s alternate persona, or perhaps he’s just Everyman, makes a few memorable appearances in this book as well. He’s in fine form in “Tom Thomson in Flight”, one of those funny and clever poems Troy Jollimore appears to do so effortlessly. “Tom Thomson Indoors” wants a doorbell put on the inside, so that he can warn the world when he’s walking out. “Tom Thomson in Tune” captured this writer’s heart, as he listens to Beck, Pavement, and the Flaming Lips, and believes no man’s an iPod.

Reading Troy Jollimore’s work is kind of like discovering a new invention. It’s that how could I have not noticed that before? kind of consciousness, when everything just makes such obvious sense, solving the problems before the need was even noticed. The syllables dance. The thoughts are brilliant and at the same time, deftly simple and clear to understand. This is not poetry that’s cluttered or taking great pains to psych you out. Ultimately, he makes fun of the art himself in “Organ Music (2)”: It’s all a crock, this language game: / some ancient stranger chose / which picture hangs in which word frame, / and whose linguistic clothes / drape on which form. Or so one must suppose.

Always smart and feeling, the poems of The Solipsist don’t show-off and complicate; although sometimes they do play crazy games, such as the big continuous switch of “Penguins”, which gives you two poems (or more) for one. Yes, for all the melancholy heart and beautiful thought that weaves throughout, Jollimore is also having a sincerely good time in this book. You’ll enjoy reading it just as much, wondering why God would make ear and eye / to face outward, not in? in soulful collaboration.

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