book 66 Galaxie

reviewed by Miriam O'Neal

Published in Issue No. 22 ~ March, 1999

To start on the most topical note possible, I guess I’d have to paraphrase the ad and say of m loncar’s 66 Galaxie, this is not your father’s poetry! Next, I’d have to say that 66 Galaxie, by m loncar knocked my socks off! These poems (59 pages of fragments and sequences) are reminiscent of Charles Reznikoff‘s New York poems. However they are written in a syntax-free format, with spaces and line breaks managing the breath work of each piece. The first name to come to mind when imagining a poetic elder for loncar is e e cummings, but unlike cummings, loncar refrains from most linguistic gymnastics and so precludes that comparison. Nikki Giovanni comes more immediately to mind for her edgy use of the immediate and the culturally topical, but her status in this regard lurks somewhere between elder and peer.

loncar includes found poems in the form of lines broken from Ranier Maria Rilke and John Berryman. The lines, even without the historical literary weight of their authors, each become a kind of emotional border crossing in the manuscript. And, in an embrace of all that is uniquely and darkly late twentieth century American, he uses the details of cars, highways, and the shattered patter of talking to the dead, to reflect life on the other side of going, going, ….

Middle America finds little mercy here. In poems like “peoria,” “kentucky,” and “ohio” loncar tastes of film-maker Quentin Tarantino’s shadow.

Over and around his heart beat rhythms of plain speech, and loncar layers a kind of flutter, like the sound of a movie reel flipping the last bit of gray celluloid round and round in a night-lit projection room. We all get up and go home with that sound in our ears – and it speaks for some emotion that has no words.

On page 50, the poem, “repeating the word girl” buries its four lines in the consciousness of the reader,

writing a poem about the girl should never be better
              than the girl        than being with the girl

don’t write the poem about the girl
              unless you’d really rather be with the girl

“…girl” seems to be loncar’s response to the single line from Ranier Maria Rilke on page 49, “what shall i do with my mouth?” The poet puts poetry in its place as a tool, as adze and blade, something to open up the difficulty of living. He understands that language does not replace living, it only articulates it.

In “Timothy and Angelina Crash,” one of the longest and most formal looking poems in the book, the narrator revisits the loss of his brother (we don’t know whether to life or death) and his brother’s girlfriend, who died in her sleep the night they both survived an automobile accident. In a slight of elegiac hand, we learn more of the narrator’s grief than of the brother’s life. But we already know Tim from his cameos and supporting roles in a half dozen other poems in the collection.

more than
about anything i’d like
to tell you

that my brother drove
a sixty-six galaxie

or a 64 dart with

separate hydrogen from

truth is
he drove a 78

he got it
from our grandfather on his
16th birthday


I’m not going to say a thing about “all that post modern tv scrap culture generation x bullshit” (see “the king of refrigerator poems”) which may or may not be an influence on these poems. However I won’t say either, that this collection doesn’t reflect some sense of America’s addiction to the automobile. I will say that m loncar has found a way to project the surface of late twentieth century American pop culture in a kind of holograph that spins us forward at a rapid rate on verbal wheels which all the while appear to be rolling in reverse.

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Miriam Oneal had this to say about her poem: "Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "What you look hard at seems to look hard at you." This seems to sum up a way of being for a writer, though I think it's easier to 'look hard' than to be looked hard at. The transforming time for me as a writer, is when I finally stay still and become the poem's object, the seen thing. Then, the poem speaks, tells me what it wants, there is a kind of collaboration of energies."