The Dominion is crazy about Clockfire

By Robert Kotyk
The Dominion
December 3 2010

'An exercise in formal cross-pollination, Jonathan Ball’s excellent new book of prose poetry describes a series of plays, theatrical experiences, and surreal art happenings that never (and in many cases, could never) occur in reality.

Written in weighty but never overly serious free verse, the book often induces a feeling of darkness and horror ('The play hollows them. What they once were bleeds out.'), and reads with a pleasingly antiquated tone, like a collection of literary feuilletons by Robert Walser or Peter Altenberg. The pieces are organized one per page, and the quickly shifting focal point of each poem—the audience itself, the strange happenings on stage, the effect produced afterward—is as stimulating as it is unsettling. If art is the result of the imagination’s confrontation with a series of material restrictions, what happens when those restrictions are lifted? ...

Like the film Synecdoche, New York, in which a theatre project grows so large that its rehearsal period threatens to exceed the lifespan of its author, the poems in Clockfire find meaning in the gap between the practical realities of stagecraft and the infinite scope of what can be dreamed up on the page. Ball’s voice—peculiar, dark, and cultivated—is a welcome one.'

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