Dickel’s self-published volume provides a great example of the possibilities and freedoms available to poets who choose to self-publish. Midwest/Mid-East, which commemorates a “poetry tour” Dickel took through a few Midwestern cities in March 2012, contains a wide variety of poetry— from prayer, to discursive, to narrative, to political, to sensual, to social. There are short poems, long poems, sequences; a recipe poem, dramatic monologues, haiku, sonnets, Whitmanian long lines. Dickel’s influences are just as various — in some poems, with his close attention to the natural world, he recalls Emerson, while elsewhere, as he turns toward explorations of the body and the sexual self, he is reminiscent of Sharon Olds.
Dickel has inlaid black-and-white photographs on the same page as some of the poems. The photographs seem to be of a lower resolution than the poems, with their often lovely imagery. The photographs direct readings of these poems in a way that seems not always desirable.
Dickel is best when he is most rooted in a specific time or place. Lines like, “The young woman every young man desired dies in the night,” with its lulling repetition and storyteller-like tone, feel nearly Biblical. Other moments, like “this something out of nothingness,” feel too abstract to make meaning of. Perhaps because of this tendency toward over-contemplation, Dickel’s short poems feel more successful, with their wonderful sense of compression and cohesion. The eight-line poem “Autumn Milkweed,” for example, begins beautifully: “When I die, bury my body / amid a pile of leaves, / then go home.”
Lucy Biederman is an assistant professor of creative writing at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. Her first book, The Walmart Book of the Dead, won the 2017 Vine Leaves Press Vignette Award.