There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling Presse as part of their Eastern European Poets Series— will be confounding to those accustomed to poetry that holds its reader’s hand. These poems do not. They are elliptical and strange and offer very few concrete signifiers. They contain poems like this:

if it opens it won’t take root and only then could you touch the facelessness, it drizzles in your ear, tapping, leaf drop at the first step, it spreads its fingers on the membrane, catches its breath to defend itself and walks on, down again, down again, because death is not here, wall-zone is air-zone is an obstacle, like a breach sunk flat, a second step

If this block of words seems like nonsense, well, you’re not wrong. But it could mean something specific. It’s the reader’s job to give it meaning. This may feel burdensome, but these poems are asking the reader to be their co-creator. It’s an obligation you accept when you continue to read them. In this duty, you are as important as the poet. There are clues, but you get to put them together. Lucky you.

Djurdjević’s poems are referred to as avant-garde, a label that seems both vague and lazy. His work does qualify as such, but to lump it in with everything else under the umbrella term doesn’t offer one much of an idea of what to expect. Then again, the term avant-garde might be enough to engage curious readers and weed out timid ones. Of course, Morse, My Deaf Friend will not likely win over new poetry fans. There are plenty of people who are comfortable ignoring poetry, and, to quote Frank O’Hara, bully for them.

Clearly Djurdjević is not concerned. Rather, he offers the adventuresome reader a chance to see what can be found in this puzzle. And who am I to say that my reading or yours or anyone’s is best? There’s a smidgen of loyalty we owe the text, otherwise it’s every man for himself. Read into these what you will. It’s part of the experience.

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Morse, My Deaf Friend
By Miloš Djurdjević
Translated by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone
32 pages, paperback
ISBN: Chapbook
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