Dear Reader: A Review of I Miss You Very Much

By Stephanie Goehring & Jeff Griffin

Slim Princess Holdings, 2011, 48 pages



Dear reader,

     Do you read anymore? Are you sick of people asking that, as if no one reads and there’s nothing worth reading, nothing different, nothing that makes you feel?

     Because I have an idea for you, and it has nothing to do with ideas. I read this chapbook called I Miss You Very Much, co-written by Stephanie Goehring and Jeff Griffin. It made me miss you very much, and it gave me this idea that you should read it, too.

     See, the poems are all letters. Epistles. The poets write back and forth to each other, one seemingly grounded in one place, the other traveling the highways and dirt roads of both America—through Tucson, Iowa City, Chicago, Vegas—and their own associative consciousnesses.

     My favorite thing will probably be your favorite thing, reader: the repetition of evocative images. Guns. Mirrors. Trains. Blood on mouths and bodies. Intoxication. The poets pitch and catch these words and ideas to each other, layering forward like a pantoum, luring the book into a meditation on how people miss each other. Not “miss” merely in the sense of longing or desire, but to show up to a place and almost cross paths with someone…then don’t. The actual fact of an absence, all the times it almost changed but didn’t.

     I’m worried that when I get to Iowa my truck won’t start. If it doesn’t, I’ll call you.
Because you
     don’t have a vehicle or any way of rescuing me.

This is not helping me not miss you.

     I’m taking this tone with you, reader, because all conscientious word-smithing is both nakedness and wearing all one’s clothes at once. I’m taking this tone with you because the tone of this book is also dualistic, both colloquial and lyrical. At turns, we witness the upbeat missives of two friends checking in with each other:

We should meet up in Chicago. I hear if you put your forehead against the glass of the Sears Tower observation deck and look down, you feel like you can see forever.

Elsewhere, the mood sideways-points to something sinister lurking beneath the surface and in the spaces between the words, the first nauseous twinges of premonition actualized.

I pretend like I’m drunk all the time except I’m not pretending.
I think that’s your husband’s fault, given that to him your face is a gun.
I don’t know how to pretend that I’m pretending anymore.

Now we can’t get lost. (All anyone says is, “I don’t know.”) It would be easy to fall into the trap of interviewing someone who isn’t there.
Who is signing these letters?

I think most people look like clouds and really I just want to be an airplane.

What is gonna happen to this guy?

I don’t like learning about your life through letters from the hospital.

What is their history together?

I wanted to marry you when I thought it wasn’t possible.

Don’t let the questions the poems raise be the kind that stop your reading, reader. Instead of trying to pin these poets down on the specifics, as if specifics are only evident in a straightforward narrative, marvel at this collaborative effort, how with just The Images as stepping stones, we can hop around with people we don’t even know. (You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, reader? You are holding my hand right now. I wanted to marry you at a gun range but now all I want to do is hold your hand at an ammo shop and talk about the things that get left behind.) There can be no grounding because absence is not grounded; memories are anchored only by relativity and the health of our hippocampus.

It’s amazing when we can make anyone feel anything at all.

Reader, where the two characters in the poems keep missing each other, these two poets somehow, amidst the chaos of the universe, stepped into the same wavelength to seamlessly render these poems. A wavelength that, for all its oddities and abstractions, they made common and believable to me. You could believe it, too.

Missing you,

 Stacia M. Fleegal




Stacia M. Fleegal is the author of Versus (BlazeVOX, 2011), Anatomy of a Shape-Shifter (WordTech, 2010), and the chapbooks The Lines Are Not My Friends (second place, Cervena Barva Press chapbook competition, 2010) and A Fling with the Ground (Finishing Line Press 2007). Her poems have recently appeared in Best of the Net 2011, Fourth River, North American Review, Mud Luscious, The Louisville Review, and Skidrow Penthouse, and received Pushcart Prize nominations in 2009 and 2010. She co-founded and co-edits the online literary journal Blood Lotus.