Describe that Book!
The voices in Greg Rappleye's Figured Dark call across a vast American landscape of myth, memory, and horrific wreckage. In the title poem, speaking of the phenomenon of fireflies rising at night from a southern field, he writes, "I could round this down to a million tiny bodies, / blazing the midnight trees," but the reader is left to wonder whether any extravagant numbering can account for the massed starlings, dreamy raptors, dome-lighted Firebirds, flaming bodies, junk cars and deadly archangels that come to ground in Rappleye's world, where the spiritual exhaustion of Odysseus is visited upon Brian Wilson and the young John Berryman seeks recompense from a wily family in northern Michigan. These poems are by turns wise, elegiac, ironic and wickedly funny; this is a poet who refuses easy categories. If these poems are anything, they are affidavits of a heart-at-work, building out of darkness a kind of wild redemption, hard-earned in the real world.