Christopher DeWeese

Octopus Books, 2015

Structured around three quotes from Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook, Christopher DeWeese’s second book of poems, The Father of the Arrow Is the Thought, is an exploration of the chasm between the imagination’s ability to travel and the body’s all too definite limits. The title comes from the most central of Klee’s notions: “The father of the arrow is the thought: how can I expand my reach? Over this river? This lake? That mountain?” The book begins with a whimsical moment:

we drank the champagne
tradition dictates
every balloonist must carry
to prove to suspicious farmers
they are not aliens,
then we ate the éclairs
we brought to remember
how good the earth is
when the right elements
are placed together

The poem reminds the reader that éclairs and champagne come from the earth, however indirectly, and that these inventions, and the abstractions they embody, identify us as human. The speaker can also narrate the evanescent shame that sometimes accompanies that realization:

what you have been eating
then leaves you
in a hushed, velvet room,
where you drink the port
and update your status
and wait to feel something

Reconciling Klee’s problem, these poems subsume the body and apotheosize the imagination, though this requires a deconstruction of the self: “we are not ourselves / so much as a series of annotations / recurring in the darkness.” In fact, these poems so depend on voice and tone that text becomes inseparable from speaker. Every poem in the book employs continuous verb forms, gently coercing the reader into thinking in the same directions at the same pace as the speaker’s imagination, an imagination often expressed in a wry, flatly affected humor:

the French words we used
like italicized cheeses
upon the silver trays
of our sentences
in those days of wine
and communicable diseases

It’s a fine ear that accompanies this stream. Listen, for instance, to the i’s—both short and long—in this section of “The Mountain”: “Dust twists within the illumination / like a microscopic revival, / a small dancing in the always.” The Father of the Arrow Is the Thought illuminates the poem as a device for time travel, and for time defiance. In the end, the book reads into, through, and beyond Klee’s art notebook in a poet’s rhythm, image, and diction, recasting Klee’s original notions while simultaneously working through his own.