There’s a new review of Michael Klein’s then, we were still living, thanks to Monica Mankin at ConnotationPress.com. It’s a great examination of Michael’s book, and also one of the better reviews, in general, that we’ve read in a while. “Wary of book jacket praise for contemporary poetry,” Mankin’s review/essay asks “what makes a book of poems ‘wholly original’? What makes it ‘essential,’ and essential to whom?”
Dedicated to Adrienne Rich, Michael Klein’s then, we were still living begins with bread, ends with light, and bleeds a little in between. With poems that derive their power from grief–grief over the deaths of people this speaker has loved, who loved this speaker (even if imperfectly); grief over the death of a country once familiar and ideally invincible but now foreign and irreparably fragmented–Klein lights a stage whereupon figures of the speaker’s personal loss of his mother and twin brother stand next to those of America’s expiry post 9/11. At times, Klein leaves us alone in that darkened theater; the poems, like grief, are “private and unjoinable” (“Her death, later, and his”). At other times, Klein floods the stage with light and we are privy to a clearing of thought wherein this speaker cultivates ideas about the state of our nation, the reality of death, love, and uncertainty, the unreality of the metaphorical movie that currently defines our lives, and the ways in which human nature transcends nationality as well as all the other names we utter to distinguish ourselves from others.