- Climbing into the Orchestra
- by Keith Tuma
Climbing into the Orchestra slips in and out of costumes—genre, modern poetry and contemporary celebrity politics—with the agility of a one-man variety show. Tuma deploys the aphorism and satire, harangue and jeremiad, the put-on and send-up, to hilarious effects even when “The douchebag is not the douchebaguette.” But the jokes cut both ways. In “32 Nights” Berryman’s Dream Songs are turned upside down: the nightmares begin when we wake to the world. And in the excoriations of “The Base” and “The Name of the Police Since 1811,” Tuma raises his phlegmatic howl to a moon-shattering pitch. Warren Zevon may be sleeping now that he’s dead but his lycanthropic yawp yowls on in this exposé of our new dark age.
Go to Tuma for the news that stays news, precisely skewered in “cinematic bloom”—a rolling slideshow of mind torqued on the line.
—Lee Ann Brown
We have here the great pleasures of witnessing an attentive member of the audience, the seeker, the listener, the conductor, and even the impresario, Climbing into the Orchestra to play memorable tunes of their own. You’ll know Keith Tuma as an astute scholar, a critical thinker and editor of modern winds in contemporary poetry, who has been taking note of, and notes on, poets, and poetry, with a more assiduous ear and eye than many, and for longer, as well as to more persuasive effect than his subjects often deserved. It’s no big surprise then to find he’s been writing his own brightly polished poems along the way. Often modestly shared in small editions (quickly snaffled) born to comment, sometimes in homage, sometimes out of a parodic impulse, always inscribed with tender and humane humor. The wit and vim of playful attention lean in abundance here, lurking to ambush careful readers with their freighted turns of phrase. And some of the rhymes alone will do it to you, like “hot” and “thought” from “The Paris Hilton,” much as the wordplay “Polis is poolside, pronounced ‘police’” lifts us away beyond the wickedly deadpan tone, especially if you ever have the luck to hear Keith crack these nuggets live. This is generous poetry with a glint in its eye; deserving a wide readership, it will stick to your days longer than its often illusory brevity might suggest, dancing the exuberant twists of a frank and compassionate thinker.