Thomas Wiloch,
Screaming in Code
(Naked Snake, 2006)

In the world of Thomas Wiloch, a dead man will visit a doctor's office, claim he isn't feeling well and demand treatment. The receptionist, however, makes him wait in the reception room for so long that the "dead man could not go in. The long wait had not been good for his limbs, which had rotted through, and for his head, which had slipped from his shoulders...." Seeing the man, the doctor pronounces him dead of natural causes.

Not the material for your ordinary prose poem. Wiloch, though, is not interested in your ordinary prose poem. He writes of corpses who go for walks, of angels buried in the "shifting blue depths of the river where mirrors go to forget themselves," and a boy who writes a huge word across the sky with his dead father's hand.

In Wiloch's material, all of the possible worlds come together and create a phantasmagoria that is a fine place for an occasional visit but one which, in the end, you are really glad you don't live in. In fact, there's so much oddness and weirdness going on that you tend to overlook the quiet skill and art the author uses to draw you into his special world.

If you have a certain habit of mind, a certain way of looking at the world, Wiloch's work will have you nodding and saying, "Yes, that's the way it is." If you don't see the world his way, you'll probably be thinking, "I'm so glad that's not my reality." Either way, the reading experience is good.

The book's first poem, titled "How to Read This Book," cautions us not to exceed 12 prose poems in 24 hours. Since your initial impulse will be to read straight through from beginning to end as I did, you'll have a hard time following that prescription.

by Michael Scott Cain
3 March 2007