Albert Mobilio is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award. His work has appeared in Harper’s, the Village Voice, Grand Street, Black Clock, BOMB, Cabinet, Talisman, and Tin House. Books of poetry include Bendable Siege, The Geographics, and Me With Animal Towering. He is an assistant professor of literary studies at the New School’s Eugene Lang College and is an editor of Bookforum.
Touch Wood by Albert Mobilio
The heir to Modernism at its most terse and most oblique, Mobilio works line and sound forcefully together, managing amazingly acrobatic moves. With an eye for the monumental incidental, he winds through ekphrastic gesture and an eccentric abecedarium to give us a tour of the contemporary that’s quick, vivid, and wry almost to the point of irony—but not quite. Instead, he sticks with the tenacious questions, probing the slim abysses between a life’s well-oiled parts. It’s delightful, witty, and deeply moving all at once.
It’s a dangerous imperative. All the more so when it turns out it’s touching you before you can touch it. With a dash of reverb, distortion, and flange, Mobilio does Dashiell Hammett doing Dickinsonian compression in discordant voices. Part fever dream, part paralytic empiricism, all yoked together by venom and violets, these poems gesture, point, gently command the world to renew itself, and the self to quit hobnobbing thusly. So do it. Touch wood. Flesh out the noun machine with pulsating musculature. Turns out the acoustics in this place are stunning, even if the conductor’s ditched his baton for a hatchet, hacking melodiously away. It’s a dangerous imperative—this convulsive beauty.