Little Million Doors by Chad Sweeney, reviewed by Matt Hill • Empty Mirror

Little Million Doors: An Elegy by Chad Sweeney / Nightboat Business Relationships / 2019 / 978-1643620008 / 80 pages

Little Million Doors: An Elegy by Chad SweeneyLines composed by a disjoint of conscious memory, shards of grief felt in the liminal spaces of shock and disorientation. Stark and spare lines fuse, then undo themselves by reversal. The poem emerges, the stance of stanzas comes with no duality by form or content. Then gradually, through what has been broken, it emerges whole, allowing meaning to manifest where the breaks have occurred.

“Little million
Doors and darkly
From here the future
Looks like many attempts to ask”

The poem’s genesis: receiving news of his father’s sudden death in his sleep, shock and ensuing grief then depicted in these post-traumatic lines. Although this poem is an elegy written of, and for, a deceased father, the poet wonders if it is possible that it is also a gift which returns from the father back to the son. “When the sequences of Little Million Doors began to sound in my head, they arrived as fragments of an elastic super-sentence that traced and multiplied and and folded, ruptured and reformed, hinged and swayed — to embody a fluid, multifoliate map of time and reality …”

“I was
Futuring the thistle to twelve
Distances of
God what is this between us a world”

Chad Sweeney’s emotional trauma, borne through ineffable circumstances, carries moments of everyday reality shed of each day’s sustaining core, where the poet ontologizes the primal experience of standing outside of himself. By a disordering of the senses, fueled by sleep deprivation and shock, a ghost-voice is heard, bearing “no shape for grief”, and provoking “bright visions and sensations” within the consciousness of the griever. Attempting to capture and then track these ghostly transmissions, the process then stops as quickly as it first became manifest. Sweeney asks if perhaps this dislocated voice may very well be the father speaking through the void to him.

“The days I lived my task to
Gather them”

This is a book meant to be read aloud (and perhaps by muted exhalation). By invoking the breath, the cadence by elegiac fragments recorded through these pages becomes palpable. Sweeney is a poet who has truly mastered the poetic flow of rhythmic utterance. With language used in service to all that is Said by way of the Unsaid, the ontological reflections in Little Million Doors are cogently written devoid of traditional syntaxis and grammatical cause and effect. It is as if the language becomes manifest as permeable smoke:

“This smoke which is
The fine smolder
Of thought shines clean shines
Dirty no matter”

By allowing an enjambment of lines to foster the beat of the breath with this momentum fueled cadence, the words then rush from many of these pages like the snow melt of springtime. The outer time and space becomes chronicled by depictions of what is voiced through inner time and space. The paradox of using language in this way unveils a transcendent realm which also suggests:

Language opens at the wound”

And even more immediately,

“Children see me
Inside them I watch
Language move the year”

Little Million Doors is a fluid discursive poem, anchored throughout by the thematics of air and light, gravity, language, and children. It is these anchors which provide the multi-voices heard within these pages, reflecting back to the reader images such that

“Our silence
Surrounds us with surfaces”

Our worldly stance, affirmed when we honor those who have nurtured and guided us, unfolds in time even as we will take the place of those who came before. Chad Sweeney’s latest book encourages us by his acknowledgement towards his father, where

“Fire seen one
Mountain to the next”

grants us the gift of the prior, the beacon by which we too must navigate through the shoals of our time and destiny.

About Matt Hill

Having lived in the southern part of Northern California for a lifetime, Matt Hill is a poet and sculptor working in native hardwoods. His work has been published in dozens of journals, including Big Bridge, Talisman: A Journal of Poetics and Poetry, Sugar Mule, Chiron Review, and Dispatches. Integral Process: Selected Prose and Poems (Gradient Books, Finland, 2016); Yet Another Blunted Ascent (Moira/Locofo Chaps, 2017); and Tertium Quid, (Moira/Locofo Chaps, 2017) are his latest books.

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