In late 2016, Anton Yakovlev released Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books). Yakovlev was born in Moscow, then studied poetry and film at Harvard. Yakovlev has released two poetry chapbooks, The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review and The Stockholm Review of Literature. Yakovlev has translated the poetry of Sergei Esenin and directed short films.
Narrative turns in Ordinary Impalers are surprising. As a reader, I found myself latching onto more familiar narrative structures as a kind of refuge. In the collection’s title poem, “Ordinary Impalers”, we are asked to consider “How could you ever hope to glow in the dark?” The reader doesn’t know how to respond, but instead must imagine an audience who can at least better comprehend the question itself.
There are moments in many Yakovlev poems when I find the reader is on the sidelines, an observer overhearing a conversation between strangers who speak a private language. The reader doesn’t have to crack the code to enjoy the conversation. Rubbernecking and speculating on The Mysterious is good fun for us all.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of sincere, candid moments in this collection. Two lines from “The Gallery” read:
I don’t care to be social
with anyone but you.
In fact, there are a variety of speakers in these poems. Some examples:
[from] “I will Come Back to You as thunder”
Bald eagles can be seen best
by people who mountain-bike
but they are generally too busy
rippling their abs.
You scratch “REMEMBER INTEGRITY?”
on the side of my Ford Escape.
I call you to these line-ups
over and over
just to see that grin.
[from] “A Stop Sign Worn as a Helmet”
They hypnotized themselves with each other’s choices.
It was hard to tell what was going on
with locals hopping from Escher staircase to Escher staircase
always coming back to the same general tornado.
[from] “Walking with Difficulty through the Snow”
They passed a dry steering wheel next to a wrecked boat.
He penetrated it will his gaze, thinking,
for the two hundredth time today,
that in the end, nothing was cheerful about life.
[from] “The Artist”
The doctor at the red light
still remembers his father tackling him
to the sounds of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony
“The Visiting Scholar” is a poem in which many of the poet’s devices make an appearance. It’s a relatively short poem that packs hard punches. “You think I’m bored. Actually, / I see amputated limbs in discarded trees.” Yakovlev provides something for everyone, and that includes the stranger within us all.
Overheard Intrigue is a review by Mark Danowsky, Managing Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal. Mark’s poetry has appeared in About Place, Cordite, Gargoyle, Right Hand Pointing, Shot Glass Journal, Subprimal, and elsewhere. Mark is Founder of the poetry coaching and editing service VRS CRFT – vrscrft.wordpress.com.
The Schuylkill Valley Journal is a literature and arts journal featuring authors and artists from the Philadelphia area and beyond. For more of our content (poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and flash), or to submit your work, visit us at SVJLIT.COM