A hole is nothing but what remains around it. -Matt Rasmussen
By Tyler Leng, Staff Writer
Minnesota’s own 2012 Walt Whitman Award winner, author, and Gustavus Adolphus College professor Matt Rasmussen hails from another era with his crisp white shirt, dark black jacket, and coal grey tie superiorly looked down upon by thick black rimmed glasses and an barely updated 1950’s ivy league hair cut. On Nov. 5 his talent was apparent as he stood behind the podium to present not only his work, Black Aperture, but the work of his mentor Bill Knott with several honorary readings of the former.
In the opening salvo, with the poem “After Suicide,” we the audience see through Rasmussen’s use of dramatic imagery the milk rushing out of the hole in his brother’s head. The hole opened up by the gun his brother had placed into his mouth to end that same life sometime before. As the now dead man now continues to post-humorously try to consume the white flowing substance pooling at his feet, his brother-the author looks on caught between the warm of life and chill embrace of death. Trying to with thought and action to staunch the wound. To fill the hole, so the milk would nourish is brother. Then the eruption of the author’s vapor hardened breath and the milk, both resting on the linoleum covered floor, unveiling the shadows of death, and whitening the darkness of that moment for the writer and reader alike.
It was with the shift to as Rasmussen puts it, “the poem as a character in the poem,” that a sense of levity was brought to the reading. While the break from seriousness was not clearly needed as the author cracks a joke or two through the event, it is used to refine his touch with the audience, for it helps both to see more clearly who and what each other are.
This then becomes more understandable as the poet then moves into Dante’s Inferno territory with the continuation of the themes relating to violence, of guns, of blood, of a life taken. It becomes a process to understand what has surrounded the author, or as he wrote it best, “A hole is nothing but what remains around it.”
And, it is into this hole that the audience is drawn, this internal processing of the mental, emotional, and spiritual remnants of a relationship made flesh once again by words of memories, and the hopeful understanding or acceptance of what was and/or may come.
So it is with a elegy to technology that Rasmussen ends the reading. Like in the poem, “Out Going,” it is his voice now crying out like the lonely lark in the quiet night calling those who would listen to attention-stilling his dead brother’s presence.