What I like best about Wahlgren’s poetry in his satisfying collection, Valency, is watching each piece take shape. Like protons & neutrons collecting around a nucleus, the word shapes merge and form the most marvelous poems. I am also reminded of a quote from Julia Child about why she liked a good sandwich: because she knew the chef’s fingers had been all over it. In Valency, whether it’s in a common “…display of sky blue,” or in the inventive “…sandbox of lies,” the play of Wahlgren’s mind is like those fingerprints, touching here and there with the elusive spark which is the life of poetry itself. A wonderful addition to American poetry.
A luminous cascade of syntax
Valency is interactive and exigent, sub-atomic and transcendental, with language colliding magnificently at and on every level. Every poem in this bright, aching collection is electric, plugged into the human grid of love and heartbreak where what romantically matters is transformed, via Wahlgren’s highly attuned sense of sense, back into matter. Wahlgren is a sound-chemist, a rhyme-bonder of the first order. Like “gasps between bubbles,” his poems are heady, musical, and capture the un-captured, the most peculiar in between the lines of what’s “said.” Wahlgren doesn’t articulate perception so much as document reaction, and his reactions, boy, are they potent, do thrill. If Credo, the lyric story of Peter and McKenna doesn’t slay you, you are dead, and nothing will.
J. Michael Wahlgren is author of the collection of poems Silent Actor (Bewrite Books, 2008) as well as three chapbooks. He resides around Boston, Ma where he edits & publishes for Gold Wake Press. Valency is his second full-length poetry collection.