Reviewed by MW Rishell
If Todd Fuller were a baseball player, he’d make a lot of money. In the terms of the diamond, he can play many positions and can play them all well. Someone like Ben Zobrist comes to mind (for you baseball fans). And he would do something highly experimental and inconceivable, like holding the bat at the wrong end, and show everyone else that he – and only he – could do this and do this well.
The baseball analogy is apt because of his earlier work on Mose YellowHorse, the Native American major league baseball player of the early 1920s. This work was impeccably researched and sculpted into a compelling narrative. For good measure – to show he could hit with the bat upside down – he interspaced his own poetry that focused on YellowHorse, his career, and the man’s life as a member of the Pawnee Nation.
Now there’s a new work from Fuller. To The Disappearance exhibits traditional poetry, collaborative prose, protest works, and verse deeply ironic as well as pre-elegiac. It is this last characteristic that both prompted and carries the collection.
To The Disappearance warns and foresees that we will lose both the ordinary and the sublime. What seems to be the cornerstone work, “In Perpetuity: And Other Disappearances in 7 Parts,” begins with two statements serving as prologue: “As long as the grass shall grow / and the rivers shall flow” – wording that enforces treaties and settlements between the U.S. government and native nations – as well as “There is water at the bottom of the ocean” from the “Once in a Lifetime” lyrics by the Talking Heads. This latter allusion, a brilliant catalyst from the author, generates for the reader’s mind other lyrics from the same Talking Heads work, such as “same as it ever was.”
Fuller documents and illustrates the hegemonic oppression not just of those marginalized but also those run down by the seemingly ordinary. The series of seven poems referenced above focuses on the conceit of fateful conception rooted in seemingly inconsequential decisions and continues with works addressing randomness, the poison of patriotism, the dark side of nostalgia, the repetitions and frustrations of an ideal, and the recklessness of what we know as certainty. This work, foundational to the collection, informs us that change comes to everything except perhaps those things needing it the most.
To the Disappearance is no ordinary work, and Todd Fuller is no ordinary talent. For those of us far away from the coasts, the idea of being a regionalist is often something we run from. The reality is this tag is applied when traditionalists in the usual places can’t understand the differences between their ordinariness and our distinctiveness.
The R-word comes out when a work is so good it is inexplicable to the mainstream. We know Fuller as an activist and an extraordinary talent. To The Disappearance only gets better with each successive reading and should create new audiences for the treasures of his talent, and both curiosity and understanding for those distant and unfamiliar. This book should be given as a passport to those who believe our world is foreign.
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