The Man Suit
Zachary Schomburg’s debut collection of poetry, The Man Suit, features a mysterious coffin floating through the night sky. The cover captures the essence of the poetry. In the collection, whales are able to talk, monsters have human qualities, and a lung and haircut have a relationship. Schomburg’s mixture of everyday meditations and bizarre occurrences will grip readers' attention. In “Policy for Whales,” Schomburg presents readers with the bizarre idea that,“There was a whale singing a sincere and flawless rendition of The Thrill is Gone in a nightclub.” As the poem demonstrates, Schomburg exercises admirable control over his juxtapositions, and thus leaves the reader amused and satisfied.
For a debut collection of poetry, it is a longer book at 105 pages, but Schomburg has divided it into several sections. The sections are little chapbooks that intensify the strangeness of the world he has created. The first of these chapbooks tells the story of two phones. In one poem the speaker says, “There is a man around here somewhere, in the woods behind my house, who has a white telephone for a head. He has loud buzzing chainsaws for arms.” Audiences will find enjoyment in the uncanny, and be reminded of the weird things they might have imagined as children, when the world was still fresh and unexplored.
“What Everyone Started Wearing” is one of the strangest poems of the collection. It begins, “Everyone started wearing small log cabins on their heads. They opened the windows so they could see each other, and they opened the front doors so they could speak to each other.” The idea seems unreal to a reader, yet it is delivered in such a matter-of-fact manner that we may want to acquire log cabins for our own heads, becoming the newest victims of contagious fashion.
Schomburg shifts from prose poems to free verse through the collection. The first poem, “The Monster Hour,” is a prose poem, while other poems like “Letter to the Late Baron” demand line breaks in order to dramatize the narrative of the story. The shifting of styles allows the reader to simply absorb the stories and laugh at the bizarre humor. This shift in format is quite effective, as the poems never become daunting to the reader, despite the risks taken throughout.
The other chapbook sections also tell stories of the strange, with titles like “Abraham Lincoln’s Death Scene” and “[Opera Singer].” The strange becomes expected and the normal unexpected with The Man Suit, to the extent that we may begin viewing our surroundings differently, perhaps with a more suspicious eye. The phone ringing on our desk may not be a phone after all.
--Frank DePoole, Assistant Editor