A Review of John Olson's
Backscatter: New and Selected Poems
(Black Widow, 2008)
Norman Lock

One can only be astonished at John Olson's apparently limitless invention. Backscatter: New and Selected Poems, available in March from Black Widow Press, compensates those of us who regret not having been present at the birth of Surrealism or of a planetary system, for both described a novelty at its most scintillating and various. Olson's elements are, of course, words: "Words are instruments a biology snatched out of the air stills from a movie puddles of sound. . . a ballad of lanterns." In sixty-six prose poems unencumbered by gravity or any other obstacle to ascent -- in fine, epithalamia to language and to the imagination at play -- Olson unspools strings of spontaneous images, which are nothing less than the dna of the subconscious as it is sometimes fortunately transcribed by its most eminent sorcerers. I read Olson when I require an intoxication born of sentences that observe only and always a syntax of joy. His is one of contemporary literature's most far-ranging verbal anarchists. I commend him to you.