In Cloud of Ink there is a hunt for clarity, though the narrator’s flighty thought-path is akin to a fly’s. Certainly unpredictable, these poems lay somewhere between segmented song and fragmented story—snippets of sun in the shadows, or streaks of silver amongst a gray haze; as Klatt writes in “Whippoorwill”: “Mist // covers the whole sleepy thought of it”. Klatt’s stream-of-consciousness style exposes the shiftiness of our mental faculties, and its bizarre brood of connections expresses the authenticity of our psychological pursuits. By way of occasionally distracting the reader, Klatt works to probe the unique immensity of the mind.
The book is a challenge in that the poems are often difficult for the untrained eye to comprehend, and may be frustrating for a reader lacking an affinity, or earnest attraction, to the strange. Klatt himself phrases it in “Berryman In Cincinnati”: “melody without hope / of noisemaking.” In the poem, cicadas are considered by the narrator to be the annoying acoustics of the city—Cincinnati— and because of this the narrator, at this point in their life, “could play no nocturne.” The poem’s focus is music, the shift—the changes that undergo due to circumstantial demands, contextual influences. Isn’t this the case with language, too? That there are pressures placed on words, terms tossed towards extinction, and our duties as writers and readers is to represent them with vitality?
The narrator’s quirkiness permeates through and eschews the reader to whirl in the airstream of atmospheric “inklings.” The smudges of ink seek salvation— an emphasis on leaving a legacy, or imprint. Klatt here fulfills a responsibility to poetry, which is (to alter-phrase Emerson) fossil language, and that is to serve words, not employ them. By doing so Klatt strives to create a new experience for the reader, suspending away from the personal, biographical life of the poet behind the poem. Instead, by focusing on language—its rhythms, objectives, its evolution—Klatt ventures to fabricate, in his words, a “sacred space” for the reader to occupy, a “sacred space” that renders the reader open to all the possible encounters that a poem may bestow.
It’s the half-concealment of the subconscious that contorts and charges Klatt’s poems. An expanse of energy binds these poems that are focused on the electricity to live and adaptation by death. In the poem “May Day,” Klatt writes: “The willow / has waded into the pond, & the purpose / of the pond is outside of me.” Here, the narrator exhibits our restlessness as a species, our endless curiosity, a want for understanding. These poems attempt to express our restless ways by recreating the world in a neo-surrealist scope, which provides an opportunity for the reader to expand horizons. In “May Day,” the narrator’s swift boat “that follows the breezes” is a “burned-out canoe” that was once a “birch,” which is a strange sequence of connections. The narrator who floats “without a helmsman”—lives with no notable direction—displays the spontaneity that is characteristic to surrealism. Then, there are the planets that “revolve behind the blue sky,” that the narrator does not witness, but with an adventurous assumption thinks: “The news is good”— which could be an association with the narrator’s search for salvation, or an affirmation for drifting without direction.
The revolutions that take place in this compact poem illustrate the progression of this world, which is a restlessness that the writer sees as emblematic of our human condition. The purpose of the poem’s density, its difficulty I think, is to probe the reader to reconsider their surroundings, to tune themselves into the thoughts that torrent or trickle through their mind. Not steering the reader towards a finite feeling or understanding allows “May Day” and many of the other poems in Cloud of Ink to parlay numerous interpretations.
Another aspect to surrealism is an anchor in Klatt’s style wherein animals and objects are placed in uncanny situations amongst unfamiliar landscapes. In the sincere poem, “Where My Sunflower Wishes To Go,” a goldsmith, after he “hammered a sunflower / out of recycled trinkets,” must live with his hands that have melted into metal: “And the goldsmith soaked his hands / in the liquefaction, & they hardened.” With that he could no longer hold fragile beauties between his “welded fingers,” such as “a finch laying an egg in a trash can.” The goldsmith, however, happily beholds the awe-stunning sight of the sun suffusing. At the end of the poem a shift shows us: “his silhouette on the sidewalk while bees // trampled it with mellifluous feet.” This turn—the depiction of bees that pleasantly stamp and stomp a man’s shadow, making a sweet musical sound—illuminates the unusual unity between the bee’s honey-flowing feet, the sun’s “ardor” to melt down the metal sunflower ornament, and the goldsmith’s hard, melded hands.
In this life we all want clarity. When we transfigure, like the revolution of a cloud, we want for a trace of our captured clarity to condensate into comfort for someone else. These poems don’t readily provide clarity, but there are different shades to light! It can be contested that their force and strength lie not in the concrete or the clear, but in the abstract and the surreal. Though, upon first reading, some of the poems appear weird and disconnected, there is a reward that comes with patiently pursuing each poem and wandering alongside the narrator. I applaud the ambition of the writer for exercising the excellency of poetry, for threatening traditional forms and allowing the reader to be rescued in the wonders of Imagination. Cloud of Ink demonstrates that Klatt is a writer who deserves recognition for the palatable challenges he provides—their legitimate dangers—, for his unique skill and insight, for showing us that poetry is not ever to be stagnant!