Meddle English

In the preface that begins Bergvall's fifth book of hybrid text, the innovative multimedia poet states, "My personal sense of linguistic belonging was not created by showing for the best English I can speak or write, but the most flexible one." Throughout this volume, Bergvall does indeed meddle with language, transposing and "irritating" empirical order with phonetic spellings, collage, and fragment. Bergvall's interest in Middle English and Chaucer results in a section of "Shorter Chaucer Tales." From the opening of "Summer Tale":

Rome is the hem home of ice cream
and for generations, burgeys and pilgrims ylyk,
this glade folk, in joye and blisse at mete,
have forsaken dessert at the Inn
for the simple pleasance
of sitting outside with a takeaway cone.

While the delivery of these texts is often playful, there is also an exquisite tension underscoring each section of this collection, making Meddle English, and its high-stakes language, a fun and challenging read.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.