Troy Jollimore, who teaches philosophy at Chico State University, won the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for "Tom Thomson in Purgatory." That book introduced a unique poetic persona, exuberant, unguarded, and bigger than life, and he returns in four of the fifteen poems in Jollimore's new chapbook, "The Solipsist" ($10 in paperback from Bear Star Press www.bearstarpress.com).
A solipsist is a skeptic about the existence of the outside world. In the title work, the poet seems to agree: "Don't be misled: / that sea-song you hear / when the shell's at your ear? / It's all in your head. // That primordial tide-- / the slurp and salt-slosh / of the brain's briny wash-- / is on the inside." At the end, though, a question is raised "that comes up again and again, / as to why / God would make ear and eye / to face outward, not in?"
These poems raise questions, contort the comfortable ways we (or some of us) think. "Tom Thomson Indoors" wants a doorbell installed. "The installation man didn't understand: / 'You want your doorbell on the inside, sir?' / Well, yes--didn't he grasp it? Only fair / that prior to intruding on't, he give / the world some sort of warning. (Not that world / had shown the converse courtesy to him . . . )"
The poet explores the inner life of "Regret." "I'd like to take back my not saying to you / those things that, out of politeness, or caution, / I kept to myself. . . . Yes, I'd like to take back / my not frightening the pigeons that day with my wild / protestations of uncontrolled love, my not scaring / them off into orbit, frantic and mad, / even as I now sit alone, frantic and mad, / racing to unread the book of our love / before you can finish unwriting it."
In "Penguins," the poet unwrites the poem: ". . . and all the penguins in Worcester Square / (for 'penguins' read 'pigeons') / have, like dodos, forgotten how to fly / (for 'fly' read 'do long division'). . . ." The same poem isn't the same.
Jollimore gets inside your head with some brilliant skullduggery.