If You Asked Me About Michael E. Casteels

This short ‘If You Asked,’ is one I’ve been putting off for months – let’s thank quarantine for the time it took to consider the following:

Reading Michael E Casteels’ 2016 book of poems, The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses, published by Invisible publishing out of Canada, is almost like reading a Spaghetti Western written by Haruki Murakami.
Almost.
The book is coy and humble. The poems shrug off the talent behind the lines in a Yeah, so what? fashion. I love that. In part, this is accomplished by Casteels’ choices in form. Justified margins and short poems carry the weight of the book’s central principals. Each poem, even the shortest of them, is a unique invention and addition to the pantheon of English language fables. Each poem stands on its own and builds on the book as a whole. I’m left feeling as though I’d taken a draught of something restorative. The chosen language and cadence of the work hefts off the usual pomp of poetry, without leaving any of the poetics behind. Idea stacks on top of idea to form a concept in the mind of the reader – much in the way of Haiku. The section of the book titled “Littoral Interlude,” contains 7 short poems that shine the light on this principle. Casteels Writes:

“There, in the foreground,
a spastic hermit crab
I mistook
for a shard of light.”

And later a three-word poem:

“I threw up”

As I said, at first, the book is coy and humble. But each poem, in the way of the true fable, delivers a truth. Some light and funny – like taking a moment to puke when things get to be too much; and some heavier – as in the poem “Totally Compulsive Behaviour,” in which the subject of devours themselves until they are a “single, giant eyelid.”

I can’t recommend this book enough. Please visit Invisible Publishing to explore more.

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