During a recent trip to NYC I stumbled across NoLita bookshop McNally & Jackson. Amazed at a poetry section that gave more shelf space to poets I’d never heard of I pulled out the rather square shaped book of Matthew Rohrer’s gastronomically titled ‘A Plate of Chicken.’ Inside were sixty-one pages given over to a collection of seven line stanzas, acting as the spinal vertebrae of one continuous poem drawn over a long hot New York summer.
At first glance it’s a random assembly of lines that have little coherence with each other, that read more like catharsis for the author, purging the substance of his mind to fill the chicken bones with meat (the book doubles as a flick-book, depicting the devouring of a plate of chicken). But look again and see the first and last lines of each seven line stanza conclude with the same word, weaving a small theme into every poem;
If you don’t pay attention you’ll slip into a hole.
Don’t we all understand evil?
I knelt to the floor to stare at the baby.
Infinite variation in each moment. We’re home.
Coffee smells better than riches.
I like to lie back and think of my next job.
I plan an elaborate leap into a deeper hole.
It’s full of poetic instructions and garbled imagery, and at times Rohrer takes the role of throwaway philosopher for the mundane. ‘The gate to hell is through the loop of a neck tie.’ Cleverly crafting one-liners that you'll want to add to your facebook status. Although Rohrer’s meal can be a tough one to chew at times, with his penchant for one liners that read like quotes on the back of witty birthday cards, he delivers some hugely stimulating ideas;
My function, is to be in love between two people who hate each other.
Rohrer himself states, that the chicken title seemed right to put across his attempt to unite poetry with the mundane and everyday, rather than attempting to be prophetic. For him, poetry is a way to explore the normality of life, spilling out hundreds of poems in a few days just like the hundreds of words we use everyday to explain whatever it is we do.
There is no resolution to anything in ‘A Plate of Chicken’. The meditative nature of these lines give us little insight to the normality of the poets life, but remind us their existence isn’t to change anything, but to just live on. The book has so many great lines it’s hard to pull a quote that does it justice, although there is one that has stuck with me, and seems to live up to the instructional, philosophical, mundane tone the poems favour, and makes me want to give it a go.
When all hope seems lost, write your name on paper and flush it down the toilet.