Reflection Through the Stonecutter’s Window

Indigo Moor’s collection, for an eighty-page group, feels as though he has written several separate collections. All four sections read easily on their own, almost as if a chapbook, and this makes me question the poet’s decision to present them as a cohesive unit, as opposed to collected chapbooks. For example, the section “Daybreak” focuses on long (two to three page), slender poems with some creative indentation, and what must be a variety of ekphrasis, although the dedications and other ephemera do not always provide clarity to this. “Midday,” on the other hand, offers a series of ekphrastic poems in response to one painting, and which offer an equal split between controlled couplets and more free-formed poems as in “Daybreak.” The final section in Moor’s collection, “Dusk,” contains a series of longer poems which border on stream-of-consciousness, though they are more controlled than that. From this wide perspective, as a reader, I am left confused as to the reasoning of these seemingly arbitrary delineations.

From a more narrow focus, however, Moor’s poems are successfully plotted reflections on life. He seems to have found his style too, as twenty-three roughly follow the same pattern of long and narrow with dropped lines (or indented lines?). This makes the six poems which don’t follow that pattern (but instead offer regular, even metrical lines) stick out further, and sometimes those even appear lost within the irregularity around them. On an individual case, these poems are not unsuccessful. In fact, in large measure they are very successful in both styles.

Moor’s poem “Growing Wings” (37-8) in particular struck me as a great embodiment of the music of that jazz voice so many poets attempt. How can one “speak” jazz on the page? It is ephemeral, and constantly moving on top of that, but Moor seems to have distilled its essence in this poem, especially in the first stanza:

Listen:

they had to name Jazz

before they could pull

Armstrong’s tongue

through his horn (1-5)

The internal and external music of these five lines, the rhythms they embody, strike a clear reference to the subject itself, they embody “Jazz.” Even in the one-word first line, “Listen,” sounds are echoing from the inspiration into the poem. The high-pitched short vowels, the sibilant s and nearly voiceless t, and the soft stop of n, all convey the cymbal and snare rhythm in jazz. The lines continue in this manner, with the long and short a’s in the second line, or the o’s in lines three, four, and five. The meter in these lines is fluid, as the beat in a jazz line, and can be read 1/3/2/2/2 or 2/3/3/2/2, depending on the reader. The same qualities reappear in stanza four, centered around its inspiration: “be Be-Bop / bound catch / the Trane clattering” (11-13). Read as lines, these are impressionistic, while read in syntax they want a comma. But that is minor compared to the sounds and rhythms evoked here. The dream of this music begins falling apart just as the man doing the dreaming: “I hock my axe / for work gloves / and hard hat” (37-39). Here, the sounds turn hard, almost tongue-twisting in their consonant jumps, while the vowels call back to the beginning of the poem.

“Growing Wings” is an excellent example of the majority of poems in Through the Stonecutter’s Window, displaying a clearness of intention and craft while also moving as though embodying the subject. This makes me question even more the inclusion of the six poems which do not fit this mold. Their hard regularity seems out of place and even at points unnecessary. While they are excellent poems, and their subject matter generally fits, their inclusion seems forced because they fall out of the established mold for most of the poems in this collection. Are they to be read as a breath, or as a different voice, or maybe as the maturation of the speaker? I am unsure of the answer.

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