Building the poem

Carpenter-musician-poet Mick Vranich's 10-year collection of word structures.



The hallowed narrative voice in Mick Vranich’s poetry works its isolated magic as well on paper as it does on stage with his group, Wordban’d. At times in Saw Horse, you can almost hear it. The section "Mud" starts this contemplative body of work, which finds its form in the quieter moments of everyday life, and becomes a scavenger hunt for meaning, both in man-made objects and the curiosities of nature.

By the time Vranich arrives on the scene of each poem, there are only remains. His lyrical detective work scans the corners of rooms, the secret places in abandoned vehicles, the walls behind spider webs and the insides of a pot on a stove. In familiar and simple scenes, he points at evidence of the profound and the impossibility of it as well: "watching birds pick around/for seeds in dried leaves/wake from the crackle/of the pheasant’s voice/stumble around to maintain/this upright position ridiculous as it is/to be standing here/with this flat vision." ("One False Move")

It’s Vranich’s style to meander, to build, to create an emotional desert out of footprints and shadows — like a carpenter in the business of building space. The next section, "Sticks," focuses on singular objects, like a camera lens going from the blur of "Mud" to a sharp view of a clock, a cigar box, shoes and a violin with a snake in it.

If "Sticks" succeeds "Mud," then the force of the "Hammer" that follows makes each blow as tangible and material as it is necessary to the process.

Smooth and wandering as it sounds, it isn’t unusual to run head-on into a sense of urgency or warning in Vranich’s poetry. "Rave On," which appeared in the debut issue of Doorjamb’s journal of Detroit poets, "Dispatch Detroit," whispers, "… and this one/night after i got out of the draft that was more than a draft/a raging wind tearing everything down in its path blood/baptism by the war makers little did they know how deep the/resentment went …" In that poem an inherited, whiskey-stained bar piano with broken keys harbors the ghost of a friend, Bobby McDonald, and like a possessed nickelodeon replays a memory of reading poems and "talking about Rimbaud and Artaud."

In the final section of the book, "Nails," "papers pile up to no consequence/like the pile of branches/to sleep on no electric force" ("The Authorities"), where the poet struggles with the terminal art of crafting. The invisible surveillance of internal voices against the need to resist outside forces — real or perceived — creeps out of "Dawn Patrol," which finds nature and the man-made tangled yet again. It rises to articulate the writer’s burden of too many possibilities: "i end up just sitting here staring/out the window watching the leaves/grow the rain clouds roll in the/thunder head explodes with ragged/lightning bolts the darkness falls/the sirens wail somewhere in the/distance not too near like the gun."

Saw Horse strikes with deep feeling, but most interestingly it possesses dimension. Vranich’s delicate plays on words move as two-way hinges, folding one idea upon another in multiple meanings. In the same way, "Nails" drives through and holds layers in place: the thought, the expression, the poem, analysis of the poem, the movement of the poem, the still picture of each moment capturing and assimilating whatever happens to be there.

Vranich builds his paradox painfully aware of the disintegration of the structure as well as the body, memory and art of its maker. He watches alone, yielding to that process fully, always willing to lay another piece of material down and continue the work.

Saw Horse can be ordered beginning at the end of November by emailing [email protected].

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.