Christopher Bakken, Goat Funeral
Publisher: The Sheep Meadow Press
2006, 61 pages, paperback, $12.95

christopher bakken’s second book of poetry, Goat Funeral, treats with exuberance some of the most often-mined categories of modern poetry. At various moments his book embraces the solitary concerns of the lone ego and excitement over raw elements of sensation and nourishment; Bakken calls for a Whitman-esque social flourishing, but desires simultaneously to transcend these sorts of physical concerns for higher-order knowledge. The narrator is at once absorbed in a passionate search for ideal meaning and is deeply cynical of the very possibility of meaning as an end to suffering and ennui, as when he writes in the poem “Eclogue 5,” “I’m tired of cold coffee, courtesy, culture. / I long for a pile of mud I can sink into.”

What is fascinating in part about Goat Funeral is that the poems are accessible to a casual audience. Bakken manages to keep his tone relaxed, even as he etches concise images, as, for example, in “Amanita muscaria”: “Mornings in September, when it’s too late / to bother, too late to abandon it all, I walk // the ravine, pick my poisons: wormwood, nightshade / and those red-capped beauties blighted with white.”

Beneath his protagonist’s meanderings is a ripe philosophy that does not hesitate to acknowledge tension inherent in the act of searching, and, one assumes, in the act of writing; “What, more than beauty, is so satisfied with itself?” he asks without irony, even while offering a volume of poetry that might leave us, for the moment at least, a bit more comfortable with our own process of self-identification in a crowded but lonely world of embodiment, desire, and consumption.

-Jessica Talamantez