May 26, 2018
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A poetry of life as it’s actually experienced

Courtesy photo | BDN
Courtesy photo | BDN
"Vanishing Act: Poems" by Bruce Holsapple
By Dana Wilde, BDN Staff

“Vanishing Act: Poems” by Bruce Holsapple; La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, N.M., 2010; 140 pages, trade paperback, $10.

To call Bruce Holsapple’s latest book “Vanishing Act” “introspective” would be sort of like calling the sky “high.” This is less a collection of poems than the adaptation of what used to be called “stream of consciousness” into contemporary verse. It is a minutely detailed autobiography of the everyday.

By that I do not mean occasional poems about saltwater bays or daydreams on photos of long-lost ancestors, but instead poems that move with almost fictional profluence head-on through the ways the mind receives and shapes the world from one moment to the next. Every twist and turn of experience, for better, worse and neither of the above, is examined here for what it is: life, thought and emotion as actually experienced.

This means everything from the disgruntlements of car repair (“fixing the truck  glug glug (oil) / adjusting screws   banged knuckles”), to sudden onslaughts of memory:

I see a woman who reminds me
Swoosh, I’m 10 years old
a secret crush on Mary
14, glossy black hair
a friend’s sister,
go there & hang out

What reopens that account?
Man, it’s got thick
“If proof were needed”

In other words, the natural question that might arise from a sudden recollection of a long-ago time is not merely rhetorical — it’s part of what happens in the remembering.

This gets complicated because the mind is totally enwebbed with things as they are, and that means moods and emotions are indelibly tangled into what takes place outside, for better and worse:

these dumb, belligerent responses
get out of my way, sleazebag!
rising from that place I rise from
the material I’m formed by
the same fabric as “me”

There are points in most of these poems where consciousness becomes so foamy the expression becomes just lists of words, indicating the feel rather than the thoughts of the moment, which presumably have taken David Byrne’s advice and stopped making sense (“spits  dodge        mysterious /  middle   rat        manufacture”).

Well, it’s not light reading, but it is fascinating. If you give yourself to it, it starts pulling you along to find out what happens next, what extraordinary desert vista from New Mexico (where the author now lives) or woods or street scene from Maine (where he grew up) triggers what response, reaction, reflection or reverberation. This is poetry at its most imagistically philosophic, or philosophy at its most poetically imagistic, or images at their most philosophically poetic — pick your poison, as the book directs.

Bruce Holsapple grew up in Dexter and after attending the University of Maine was a founder in the 1970s of Contraband magazine, operating out of Portland as Maine’s first well-known contribution to the underground literary scenes of the era. He works as a speech-language pathologist in New Mexico and runs Contraband’s offshoot, Vox Audio, which offers recordings of Maine, New Mexico- and New York-based writers. “Vanishing Act,” Holsapple’s eighth collection, is available from and Vox Audio is at

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