A debut volume of philosophical poetry wrestles with age-old questions—Who am I? What is real? What does it all mean?
The author of this book is somewhat of a paradox himself. On the final pages of his verse volume, Incognito writes that “i am simply sharing my thoughts that i enjoy, / for you to as well.” But this comes hot on the heels of a much more ambitious claim—“i do not want to create a new religion for you. / the point is to destroy your religions.” It’s rare to see such humility and such grandiosity couched so closely together, but perhaps that’s part of the point: The author—who goes by a pseudonym—isn’t here to comfort readers. Rather, he is here to strip away their illusions. Iris Murdoch once said that we live in “a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” Incognito is ready and willing to help with that task. Sometimes he does so in what amount to free verse poems. For example, “God’s Trip” opens with, “you never know you’re dreaming until you wake up. / maybe you’re locked in dreams of dreams / and reality is what you want it to be. / it’s only when you wake up that you realize / you wasted a dream by thinking it was real.” The repetition here is artful, and one of the tenets of the poet’s faith is that dreams give way to dreams that ultimately give way to reality. Elsewhere, Incognito dispenses with longer forms in favor of koanlike epigrams. Here is one: “i found myself asking more questions without any answers / but the things we can’t explain eventually bring clarity.” That such obscurity might indeed eventually yield “clarity” is one of the author’s main hopes. Whether it ever does in this bold and provocative volume is likely up to readers. Incognito piles mystery upon mystery here, and some may be exasperated by the sheer number of unanswered questions. But perhaps answers are forthcoming because, as the poet notes on the book’s last page, Volume 2 will be out soon.
Daring poetry that isn’t afraid to think big.