1. Josef Kaplan — Our Heavies


Josef Kaplan's 2009 chapbook Our Heavies is a collection of 16 short poems. For the most part, the poems are cohesive in content and presentation, terse almost to the point of erasure—hinting at spectral content and a cryptic minimalism that draws attention to the blankness of the pages. Although the poems occasionally feel personal, they're also suggestive of an unspecificity, with nearly half of them labelled "Untitled" (distinguished by out-of-sequence roman numerals). A quality of anonymity harmonizes the poems, with titles often serving as the only indicators of separation.

Poems are interlinked via the appropriation or sharing of similar rhythms and line breaks. However, a comprehensive linkage is disrupted by two poems. The title piece "Our Heavies" is spread out across two pages at the exact middle of the book and functions as a kind of intermission or suspension of procedure. A few pages later, "Presenteeism" is nearly identical in shape (albeit larger), but wedged sideways onto one page. Its title, which means to show up for work unnecessarily, implies its redundancy—as if avoidably affecting a flow of latency by cloning and repositioning the title poem. Both indicate a crudeness of placement, "Our Heavies" stretched to interrupt an initial pastoral inference, and "Presenteeism" awkwardly crammed, causing the reader to rotate the book or head to continue reading.

Perhaps Our Heavies is a set up for one poem, or idea of a poem, as the title indicates that the poem of the same title is the clincher (and its presenteeism along with it), while the rest of the poems serve to bolster its position by guiding one into the recess, as one wanders heedlessly into a trap. Regardless, the book treads a delicate balance between concise interior spaces and implicit, or even imaginary, components. An unknown affliction connotes a sense of claustrophobia, cornered in the midst of exchange between esoteric parts. Sandwiched at the core, Our Heavies may be a sort of prankster phantom.

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