Review by Jeff Whitney
A. Molotkov’s The Catalog of Broken Things reads just like that: a selection of seemingly shattered voices operating at the border of strange societies. The book is composed of four long poems, each one populated by different voices and characters.
The speaker in the opening poem, “The Catalog of Broken Things,” for example, tells of a wonderfully odd genealogy, with the poem’s first section opening: “I let my dead mother in.” Later, the speaker says, “Her eyes are flowers, but softer.” And it’s precisely this juxtaposition of odd, often-dark, yet tender moments that characterize all four poems in this collection.
In “The Protagonist’s True Story,” (my favorite of the book), we are reminded that, “We are the eggs of our future selves.” Also: “We swim as far as there is / ocean to believe in.”
“The Melting Hourglass” is perhaps the most enigmatic poem of the collection, its opening section stating: “I am an hourglass / most of me before / some after / almost none / in the narrow / now” The narrator of this poem tells of Goombeldt and Zungvilda, two people who may or may not live exclusively in the speaker’s head and who may or may not be the same person. Sound confounding? It is, and it’s so much fun.
The final poem in the collection, “Your Life as it is” is also the longest. As stated in the notes, it was written by the author on a trip to Russia, his country of birth, which he has not lived in for decades. The poem, addressed entirely in the second person, bears out a series of unmarked days, with each poem beginning with “You wake up in the morning.” The effect of the repetitive format is remarkable, creating a sense of timelessness, of routine. It is through this form that distinctions are made. One day, “You are in the middle of a vast empty square,” the next, “You find yourself floating in the middle of an ocean.”
This is a strange and marvelous collection full of wonder, mystery, joy, and affirmation of the universal truths we all know: “Our future is no less bright in the dark.”
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 19, Issue 1.
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