Terence Winch's new book, Falling Out of Bed in a Room with No Floor (Hanging Loose Press), his best to date, expresses the poet's defiant resistance to the forces of intellectual conformism -- it asserts the prerogatives of the autonomous self against all that would militate against it. Like a Bartleby for our times, Winch would prefer not to go along with whatever the hell he is supposed to accompany. Sometimes the imp of the perverse takes charge, as in "Don't Tell Me You Love Me": "The students arrive for class, full of a love / for learning, I could care less. / They are happy it's been raining for days, / the drought finally over. But I liked the drought. / That's the way I roll. I don't fucking transcend. / I brood. I complain." Sometimes he bravely presses the reality principle against the insincere promissory notes of a culture that issues them too freely, as in "Oral History": "You promised me a raise, but when I went to see the boss, / they fired me. You said meet me on the corner / and I'll give you a ride. / I'm still on the corner. / You guaranteed you'd call me right back. / I'm still standing by the phone. You said if / I ate my broccoli, I'd grow up big and strong. / Yet I'm a miserable weakling."
Winch's poems exemplify the value of an organizing conceit ("Belief System"), of wit as an engine for invention and discovery ("Remorse Code'), and of "the incessant hum of erotic desire" ("The Jennifer Connelly Sestina," "Sex Elegy," "Eternal Love"). He has great last lines -- the title of the book is one of them. The first poem in the collection defines things to come: "The future sprawls out like a drunk on a bed." The last poem in the book tells of what is past and passing: "The present is the life insurance premium automatically / deducted from your paycheck, while the past burns / out of control in a vacant lot on the outskirts of town." Between the two everything happens: sons rebel against the fathers they become, photograph albums are opened and by the time they are closed the people have died, and the revolution has fizzled into a busted cliche: "We all showed up for the rally that night with our guitars / and sang a Joan Baez song about rivers and stars. / Give a man a fish that wll last forever."
This is a moving book, a funny book ("Dad, you're not funny"), a poignant book, a charming hook, a disarming look, a shout in the street, a cop on his beat who is the hero of his imaginary son's third-grade assignment, a dance with the erotic angels of Paradise, a politically incorrect orgasm, a flagrantly delicious pie in the face of somone who should know better, a dream within a dream with a dish of pistachio ice cream and the prospect of a warm bath with the radio playing the songs of Destiny, a young woman who works for a travel agency in Ottawa. In these pages disappointment turns into the noblest form of rapture. -- DL