In the title story of Michael Overa's debut collection The Filled in Spaces, Edna finds her reality thrown out of whack by an "orphaned dream" that doesn't belong to her. She often struggles to recall her own dreams, but her recollections of this dream are so unsettling that she becomes certain not only that this new dream belongs to someone else, but also that it must be returned to its true dreamer. So that's exactly what she sets out to do.While the surreality of this tale is unique among the eleven stories that surround it, Edna's existential anxiety makes her fine company for every character in the book, even more so in how her quest then becomes weighed down by the quotidian. When she first startles awake from the lost dream, "her threadbare t-shirt adheres to her skin" as she pours herself a glass of water in a kitchen cluttered with dirty dishes and old shopping lists; later, wandering the aisles of Dollar Store -- that most artificial venue of faux frugality -- she waves away a store employee because if she needs any help at all, then it's not "the type of help that could be offered." Hers is a war that can only be waged alone.In this way, one of the pleasures of reading Overa's collection is seeing his characters fight against their worst selves, even as they are tripped up again and again by their mistakes.
In "Oxygen," a young man's grief over the death of a close friend makes it impossible for him to reciprocate the care his new girlfriend offers; similarly, the short-order cook fired from his job at the beginning of "Evidence of Life" pushes his luck from bad to worse when he ends a night of heavy drinking by relieving himself on the hood of a police car.But though these characters are often dashed against the rocks by inescapable tediums and societal norms, there is dignity, and even hope, in how Overa twists their fates. <
Nowhere is this more evident than the collection's first story, "Fix" -- a tale of two junkies, Loner and Dee, finding love among the ruins. Initially bonding over a shared cigarette, just minutes later they team together to mug a frat boy for his wallet and leather jacket. They turn this windfall into a stash of heroin, and the days and weeks that follow offer moments of both love and horror, as when shortly after Dee and Loner adopt a dog, they hear that a friend has Died from an overdose. They accept such injustices with blasé honesty -- death is part of the rugged lifepath their choices have set them upon -- yet that same comfort in societal shadows is what makes them incapable of admitting just precious their relationship is, and how essential to their survival.It's only later, when their connection is irrevocably severed, that Loner and Dee recognize the despair that surrounds them and the even deeper despair that lives within them. Loner's fury at this moment, a fury he has concealed even from himself, encompasses not only a weary rage at the fragility of love, but also an impotent fear of any world that could so easily destroy his happiness. Even this anguished burst, however, is tempered by the happier memories that will always stay with Loner, softening the denouement into tragedy instead of despondence.
Every story in the collection skillfully mines these rich intricacies except, unexpectedly, my personal favorite story, "Off the Tracks." Where other stories build to disaster, or perhaps rebuild in disaster's aftermath, only "Off the Tracks" starts with horror and descends into dread, creating a story in shades of black. "The car jerked like we'd gone over a pothole," it begins, but the two brothers in the car soon realize they've run over a cat, maiming it; when the older brother gives the creature a merciful death, the violent act reveals a darkness in both their hearts.
In most of Overa's stories, witnessing such misery might lessen the brothers' differences and bring them closer together, but this time one brother responds with revulsion, the other with audacious curiosity. It's a difference that ultimately splinters their relationship unforgivably and with chilling results.This unwillingness to turn away from darkness is central to the collection's success, giving these stories powerful truths about transcending the savage ordinariness that leads us to ennui.
Overa's characters are relatable and deserving of love, even as they confound and betray one another. Although these stories depict tough situations, the book's ultimate message seems to be a variation on E.M. Forster's famous wisdom: only connect -- or we'll never survive our own selves.
December 28, 2016 -- Missoula, MT: Unsolicited Press releases Ohan Hominis's poetry colection Scattered Allegories.
This poetry is alive. The author’s voice is so present, and the pictures they are painting and the emotions they are evoking are so clear, that it is undeniably excellent.
Hominis's words are so frank, clear of any metaphor or illusions that try to take you off course of what the author is trying to say. The poems are not pretenious, nor are they academic. Instead, what you get is a massive dose of refreshment. His words reach the folks that need poetry in their lives.
Well cared for.
Hominis gives us just enough information about the characters and settings to give us a picture of the subject, but does not bombard us with needless description or fluff.
This is an excellent example of modern poetry. Crafted, but not confined to rules, descriptive without rambling and insightful without being too philosophical. The author understands how to use the free verse style of poetry to its best advantage.
Where You Can Buy the Book:
Unsolicited Press Bookstore
Amazon (In Print)
Hominis does a helluva a job creating vibrant paintings in your brain with nothing but static text, helping explore the vast worlds of love and humanity.
Note: To be fully transparent, Ohan is like a brother to me. I see no point in writing an intentionally nebulous review that aims to obfuscate that fact, and I'll actually be leveraging our collaborative friendship to illuminate the power of this collection.
What is poetry? What is love? What does it mean to write the first, and feel the second?
While we may never fully grasp these concepts fully, I have full confidence that a conscious read of Ohan Hominis' Scattered Allegories will do exactly what the title suggests: shatter the shackles holding you in that metaphorical cave, allowing you to see at least some sliver of formerly distorted light. This poetry is real and raw, yet crafted with careful intention that brings you through the initial experience and subsequent analysis of a human being capable of sensing and communicating an impressively broad spectrum of thought and emotion.
This poetry will make you raise your eyebrows. It'll make you smile, smirk, and laugh. It may make you cry — though perhaps not for reasons you might expect. Some of it will likely turn you on, since certain scenes are reminiscent of depictions on Grecian urns. To quote an unassuming bystander following the performance of one of these poems: "That was sexy."
Above all else, though: this poetry will make you feel.
If the aim of prose is to communicate concrete ideas while also keeping the ethos engaged, poetry takes the opposite approach, assailing the senses to provide the reader or listener with something concrete — but something that only they could provide to themselves. So while Hominis speaks of his own experiences in exquisite detail, they draw parallels to your own experiences, and allow you to walk away with newly discovered pieces of yourself.
As a writer whose aims for poetry are more concrete and didactic, I'm seriously inspired by this collection. While it can be enjoyed by all, it's a reminder to writers in particular that there is no proper way to communicate a message — that the seemingly simple though actually quite difficult task of being true to your own feelings is all you must do to reach other minds. Hominis reminds us that this is in fact the only way to communicate anything concrete.
If you're a fan of poetry, there's no question that you'll enjoy this work. It's refreshingly unique and authentic, and represents a legion of artists who recognize that the purpose of creation is to create what is real to the creator. This is, after all, the only way that it can be real to anyone else.
If you're not into poetry, then simply forget the word poetry and pick up this collection of verbalized memories and sentiments as a means of opening your own perspective to whatever you've been missing.
There is an immense beauty in every walk of life, and works like these — due to their careful exploration of important ideas, while maintaining accessibility — are pivotal in helping us appreciate it.
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