Scapegoat - Alan GillisScapegoat Review – Poetry Magazine

 

Gillis’s skillful modulation of tone and his aphoristic precision allow him to create moments that ring true to feeling and afterthought, articulating the complex emotional resonance of memory.
The opening poem, ‘Zeitgeist’, a series of four sonnets, introduces the reader to Gillis’s particular music; phonetically rich and conversational, his blend of irreverence and serious existential consideration is uniquely fitted for considering a wide variety of contemporary blights. Here, as elsewhere, Gillis considers the energy and excessiveness of urbanization, the poem’s diction evoking the populated environment it describes and providing a catalogue of voices for the collection:

 

Outside on shopped streets swarm mothers,
alpha males, screenagers, old, young, lovers,
the homeless, the bewildered, ill, unique,
the beautiful with their self-as-boutique —
so many, thronged into one body.

 

‘No.8’, the collection’s long and often humorous poem, recounts commuter proceedings in a sprawling, essayistic form. With charm and insight, Gillis takes us from the minutes prior to boarding the bus, to boarding, ‘Everyone looks like/they’re in an art installation/where the central concept is/they’re completely normal,’ to the wandering stream of consciousness inspired by gazing out the window . . .

 

The emotional life of memory is palpable throughout the collection, suggesting that, ultimately, paths carved through memory occupy a dual place in the past and present.

 

— Moya Catherine Popa, Poetry

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