(Las Vegas, NV: Zeitgeist Press, 2016)
A couple years ago, I moved to Nevada from Washington state. I packed all my belongings into my car, and I drove. In my Subaru were my clothes, LPs, books, saxophones, and even my bicycle. What I remember better than anything concrete, however, is an acute sense of something less tangible: an awareness of spectrums of possibilities. I contemplated which hues of lavender I’d find brushed across the mountain ranges at dusk, what types of jobs my college students might hold in the neon city I was to call home, and exactly how much I’d miss the jellyfish in the bay near my Seattle apartment. Even the moment of standing in front of a selection of nuts, corn nuts, and slightly stale popcorn seemed to brim with opportunities, forks in the figurative roads, and surprises. Recently, I experienced this awareness again as I read Richard Loranger’s latest collection, Sudden Windows: flash prose.
In addition to writing, Richard Loranger creates visual art. If you’ve read Sudden Windows, you might find this unsurprising. There are no sketches or photographs in the book. Rather, Loranger’s attention to image in his writing, to what concretely appeals to the senses, is impeccable. The “trees drink clouds,” “we chant ballyhoo and balderdash, while ants and snakes overtake our homes,” “and who knows what will fall from the sky. A pie, perhaps, a piece of Tupperware, a single blade of grass.” In the poem “Into Air,” we can hear the squeal of the vowel as Loranger writes, “A walk by the sea takes all the eeeeeeeee out of need.”
The shapes of the poems, mostly rectangular blocks of text, remind me of windows. There are no line breaks, is no enjambment, to dictate the lens through which we might witness the scenes Loranger has created. Of course, prose poems are not uncommon, but Loranger’s title choice, Sudden Windows, and his decision to label these pieces “flash prose” heightens our senses to the form. Unlike static snapshots, through windows we can witness the various events that make up a minute, an hour, or longer. They move beyond the stillness of a portrait and the implied narrative of an action shot. Despite these poems’ brevity, narratives are plentiful throughout these Sudden Windows. In the final section of the collection, Loranger writes, “The year peels open like a tomatillo, slowly, from the top.” We witness the “sour fruit” “dry to husk” and then “the five sharp leaves unfold like a star.” In the end, we learn that this tomatillo is a metaphor, and the poet is talking about us, and it is “December. Time to rip yourself open and drop those seeds.”
There are some things I tend to forget, at least emotionally, about my road-trip move to Nevada. For example, I was quite frustrated when I got lost and found myself, oh, in the wrong state! I didn’t mean to detour through Salt Lake City. Similarly, Loranger’s collection is far from fun and games. In fact, it’s much darker. Family members die, and natural disasters occur. Even the heart “says, Hello, I’m a comet, and tears your house away.”
Nevertheless, Sudden Windows also offers hope in the endless spread of possibilities it explores throughout its dozens of pages. For example, the final two sentences of “Use Your Eyes” demonstrate the collection’s juxtaposition and balance: “Everything tastes like heaven. I eat my chicken like a savage.” When there is sorrow, there’s joy. Where there’s confusion, there’s clarity, too. Hopelessness is tempered with hope, and if you’re on the brink of change – and this is constantly true for all of us – you might find that “your face breaks into bloom. Why? Because it can.” What, exactly, are we to do about this? To again borrow the words of Richard Loranger, let’s “let the baby run wild.”
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Heather Lang is the Associate Poetry Editor and Managing Online Editor of The Literary Review.