Gary Lutz – The Divorcer

Poet, author, and prose stylist Gary Lutz has continued to offer constant surprises with his inventive use (or misuse) of language in his latest book this year, The Divorcer, from independent publisher Calamari Press.  In this compilation of shorts, Lutz, an idolized but lesser-known writer of the chapbook D.I.Y. scene, further occupies a space between genres of poetry and narrative, hinting at storyline or meaning but then preferring to venture through experimentations of seemingly nonsensical wordplay.   But it is in storytelling that his poetry is most effective.  Surely anyone could expect a poet to bend word meanings and create unimaginable imagery (or at least they should), but for a storyteller to keep the same priorities is always a refreshing treat.  Such aesthetic is the strength and livelihood of Lutz’s prose.  In a recent interview with Big Other, Lutz reflected, “Maybe that explains why in my fiction the sentence and not the paragraph seems to be the unit and why there rarely seems to be a plot.”

In Divorcer, Lutz shines with clever and often humorous one-liners containing beautiful visions, like, “a woman graphically sad in ambitious pinpoints of jewelry,“ but also among his twisted convolutions are precise and unsettlingly accurate observations of human nature, such as in “To Whom Might I Have Concerned” as Lutz writes, “What had shaped me was the discovery, at thirteen, that I could send my arm around my back and then make out, at my side, the fingers of a hand doing its damnedest to reach me.”

The book offers some comfort to your schemas of fiction by calling itself a collection of stories but disregards the corresponding schematic expectations, such as linear narrative or character development, as each “story” meanders in its intellectual playfulness over to more poetic territory of abstraction.  This is not negative criticism but rather praise to the ultimate poet that Gary Lutz truly is.  The antic of blurring the arbitrary line of poetry and prose is becoming more than ever a necessary feat, especially as pop stars like Jonathan Franzen criticize experimental writers for not being marketable enough (as he wipes Oprah Winfrey’s vaginal juices from his simpering slimy lips).  Lutz doesn’t necessarily have a story to tell, nor is he an unemotional, clinical concretist.  He is simply a craftsman, an artisan of the written word, a poet with a sharp focus.  This is exemplified more so than ever in Divorcer and is what distinguishes Lutz as a pioneer still ahead of the game.


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