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Graham Jensen reviews Max Layton’s When the Rapture Comes in The Bull Calf

when the rapture comesGraham Jensen’s review of Max Layton’s debut poetry collection When the Rapture Comes was recently published in The Bull Calf. Here, Jensen discusses the central themes of the collection and points out what the collection is really about.

When the Rapture Comes was published by Guernica Editions in Fall 2012.

Jensen begins by describing the collection as “a carnivalesque exploration of highly personal but also shared human concerns, a constellation of interrelated reflections in which the eschatological often meets the mildly scatological.”

He explains that Layton repeats the title of the book in each poem’s first line, and while doing so, “meditates on the subject of the apocalypse from a variety of perspectives”.

Furthermore, Jensen comments on two recurrent themes in the collection: inversion and family.

He explains:

“To Sing Another Villanelle,”… foregrounds the book’s preoccupations with repetition and formal control as well as its recurrent theme of inversion. In this poem, the rapture is represented as a time of great upheaval, a temporary disruption of the usual order of things… For Layton, this kind of carnivalesque inversion allows for exciting new experiences and possibilities—after all, the word “rapture” does have multiple meanings, one of which corresponds to the poet’s enthusiastic responses to the world around him.”

Similarly, he elaborates on the way in which Layton’s “emphasis on memories and the past” gives rise to the theme of family in his work.

“Poems such as “Remembering,” “Life Work,” “Intimations of Mortality,” and “Alzheimer’s” feature frequent references to Layton’s mother and father.”

Nevertheless, Jensen explains that the poems create their own poetic legacy rather than serving as a mere “Oedipal enterprise”.

“Layton seems content to create his own poetic legacy rather than attempt to usurp the father figure that he goes to such lengths to humanize in these pages.”

He stresses that despite the central role that Irving Layton plays in the poems, it is ultimately Max Layton’s voice that brings life to the poems.

“Although Irving Layton is one of the collection’s many protagonists and focal points, it is ultimately Max Layton’s sense of humour and use of clever turns or surprises that play the starring roles here.”

Jensen points out that Layton’s poetic debut is both captivating and powerful.

“Layton leaves little room for criticism in this captivating debut. Even when he doubts the power of his own poetry, he seems to invent increasingly witty and confident ways to dramatize his insecurities.”

He concludes by stressing that, despite being about endings, Layton’s first book is really about “the start of something else”:

“As the recent publication of Layton’s second collection of poetry indicates, this first book, about endings, is really about the start of something else: it marks the big-bang beginning of a gifted poet’s career, not his untimely demise.”

Posted in Poetry, Reviews.

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