Saturday, September 9, 2017



STORY PROBLEMS by Charles Jensen
(Palooka Press, 2017)

I so admire Charles Jensen’s imaginative approach for creating STORY PROBLEMS—a chapbook of pleasingly unexpected prose poems that take the form of a reading comprehensive exam. Here’s an example, “Dissection” (click on all images to enlarge):

As one can see in the above, the poetry arises partly from the leaps between the brief story and the questions. How does the reader comprehend the links between story and questions except to participate in a poetry experience, that is, where narratives need not be transparent, linear or even make sense? This, in fact, is one of the successes of STORY PROBLEMS: how it creates an unconventional space for reader-response.

Nor does Jensen stop at the imagination for involving the reader. Here’s Question b. from “Foresight V. Hindsight”:

Touch a place you dislike on your body.

I was charmed by the cleverness of that question, or rather, instruction—a literal (pun intended) way to make a poem affect the body, and make reality from words.

Even when the leaps between story and questions don’t seem a stretch, the linkages are fresh, witty and keep the reader’s interest, e.g. “Calculations of Infinity”:

In the above, I love how the story focuses on the vastness of the universe, only to be followed by questions focused on the you-ness of you the reader!

Here’s another example poem, “Mystery at Plymouth Rock”:

What’s intriguing about the above poem is how the disruption in expectations is not only between the story and the questions it presumably generates—there also is a leap between the 2nd and 3rd questions.

Nonetheless, when I read a poem like “Phantom Pain,” I recall another review I once wrote on Jensen’s work—on breakup/breakdown in the January issue of Galatea Resurrects.  And, recalling that earlier review, I wonder/suspect if Jensen ultimately is a love poet. Well, there are worst things to be—whatever Jensen is, he delivers it with both imagination and discipline. The results are recommended reading.

I’ll end with the referenced “Phantom Pain” because it also allows room in reader-response for “all the bullshit” readers bring to reading a poem. Jensen obviously respects the reader enough to allow even the dark side of our subjectivities (well, Thank You, Author!).

I do believe Charles Jensen is one of the most deft authors today utilizing the chapbook format.


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include four books, two booklets and six poetry chaps. Most recently, she released MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press) and Love in a Time of Belligerence (Editions du Cygne/SWAN World). She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere for recent reviews of her work: T.C.. Marshall reviews MANHATTAN for The FilAm Magazine while Joey Madia reviews it for New Mystics Reviews. Her books have been released in nine countries and cyberspace. More info about her work at

No comments:

Post a Comment