Book Review: Controlling Chaos
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
A clashing cacophony of chaos—in harmony
The world can feel like chaos. Random things happen, bad things happen, good things happen, an array of all things happen at the same time. So is it chaos, or is it controlled? With a deft pen and an inspiring muse, Estabrook fuses sense into a chaotic world.
At the outset, this collection feels as if there is no structure, but the more the speaker presents questions and narrative and style, the more harmonious it all becomes. A number of short poems in different form cover each page, yet they often reoccur on separate pages, like the stories of his brother, his wife way out of his league, aging, quotes, and even “I Write Poetry Because….” Like this, the collection takes on a controlled form—something that we can expect—however wild.
Controlling Chaos doesn’t necessarily attempt to control the chaos so much as lets the pieces connect where they will, and lets others remain separate and whole. You can feel the inspiration of each poem in the fervor with which they’re written—some feel like we’re sitting there with the speaker as he observes something small and universal, digging through his pockets for a notebook and pen.
“No matter how careful
The jelly jar is always
Sticky on the outside”
One of the strongest continuing narratives of the collection are those about the speaker missing his late brother. It’s a constant pull at the heartstrings whenever the brother is mentioned, and there’s a softness in the voice that is, in other poems, barricaded by a proud man with a protective shell. I really appreciate how soft and sad these poems can get.
The collection sparks a number of questions, but none carry quite as much weight as the one on existentialism. The entire concept of chaos—and the controlling of it, or lack thereof—is an endeavor to bottle up all of spontaneity that runs our lives. It’s refreshing to leave a book so surely unsure of myself and feeling better for it.
While I came away from the book with a positive experience, some poems are more effective than others. We can leave a poem having to think, “I’m not sure this one does much” or “didn’t we already do this?” There are also a handful of head-scratching moments in here, like the discussions of overweight people, of women other than their physical attractiveness, and the pandemic poems.
Controlling Chaos has a lot of great things going for it. Keep an eye out for the conversations on aging and the loss of the speaker’s brother. Readers can pop in and out of these short poems with ease, feeling the palpable inspiration and the fervor with which the chaos is scribbled, and they’ll be glad they came.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Print Length: 130 pages
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