Greg Rappleye’s Figured Dark is a collection of contemporary lyric and narrative poems, set in an American landscape, which takes as its implicit theme the journey of the soul from darkness into light.
The voices in the collection call across a vast landscape of myth, memory, and horrific wreckage. In the title poem, speaking of the phenomenon of fireflies rising at night from a southern field, he writes, “I could read this down to a million tiny bodies, / blazing the midnight trees,” but the reader is left to wonder whether any extravagant numbering can account for the massed starlings, dreamy raptors, dome-lighted Firebirds, flaming bodies, junk cars, and deadly archangels that come to ground in Rappleye’s world, where the spiritual exhaustion of Odysseus is visited upon Brian Wilson, and the young John Berryman seeks recompense from a wily family in northern Michigan.
These poems are by turns wise, elegiac, ironic, and wickedly funny. This is a poet who refuses easy categories. If these poems are anything, they are affidavits of a heart at work, building out of darkness a kind of wild redemption, hard-earned in the real world.
Figured Dark is part of the University of Arkansas’s Poetry Series, edited by Enid Shomer.