|Published: October 2014|
Steven Wingate's latest book, Thirty-One Octets: Incantations and Meditations, is an ambitious poetic narrative that continued to resonate long after the last octet. We have all been told never to judge a book by its cover, but consciously or subconsciously that's exactly what I did with Wingate's latest effort. I asked several of my friends to describe the book's cover in one word. Without hesitation, they said things like "epic," "biblical," "supplication," and "Jesusy."
My opinion of religion is skeptical at best, but I am always fascinated by what people believe and why. Steven Wingate is one of literature's best kept secrets; yet, I admit I still approached Thirty-One Octets with caution because the cover looked "Jesusy."
The first four octets peaked my curiosity, but didn't necessarily grab me. I put the book down and went to bed. The next morning I continued reading where I left off the night before, beginning with "Octet In Great Praise of Misunderstanding." Almost immediately there was a sea change. I was reading without pretense and the poems surprised and engaged me. I finished the book during that sitting and re-read my favorite octets straightaway.
Despite the repetition of thirty-one octets, the form never wore out its welcome. The more I contemplated these pieces, the more enlightened and entertained I became. It didn't matter whether or not these octets were about the babel of humanity, the babel within one's self, or the Tower of Babel, Wingate's commentary is compelling, vital and humorous. It almost felt like a memoir in thirty-one octets.
My favorites include:
Octet for Future Medicines, as Yet Uninvented
Octet to the Temple of My Body
Octet in Memory of My Proletarian Hypocrisy
Octet of Distorted Affection for Paris
Octet of Praise and Animosity for New York
Octet for Angel City
Octet of Supplication to the Muse