Mark Scroggins’s Pressure Dressing
is linnet-less and unsolaced and, for all that, marvelously beautiful. The book is a long contemplation of catastrophic life itself, from its tufted inclines to the ongoing failure of the site, the body spilling over the wall, the pressure dressing … struggling, “with mixed success,” to hold. If we learned in school that a poem is “the cry of its occasion,” here Scroggins harpies off the already ruined bandage to reveal the “cry of accumulation, cry / of acculturation.” Hold tight, press hard—an age’s savagery stalks the rough (and gorgeous) edges of this book’s hour.
—C. S. GiscombePressure Dressing
leaves us wondering where and how deeply are we wounded. In these poems, most especially in the extraordinary title suite, we are kept distracted from our own pain by the poet’s talk, his brilliant counterpoint of realities, his interleaving of lives, lived or glimpsed, his words alert to humiliation, to hurt, to beauty, to ideas, to others, and above all, to the transfiguring detail. With virtuosic turns of tone Mark Scroggins sounds out a complex affection for the flesh, telling with no slight elegance the ways we are bound to it, in it, and by it, and the grief we feel at the last farewell.
Mark Scroggins’s fourth book of poetry begins with the snarl and sneer his readers have become accustomed to and have, like me, gleefully gobbled down. Having mastered the bait-(Wallace Stevens)-and-switch (Woody Allen) poem, Scroggins flashes his epée, expertly puncturing pretension and ostentation throughout the first part of Pressure Dressing.
But in the second section, the long title poem, blood pools inside the mask of the sardonic satirist. Forced to toss it aside, Scroggins, like the Tennyson of “Ulysses” or the Wordsworth of “Tintern Abbey,” comes face to face with faceless mutability, the waxing and waning of desire and ambition, the gradual loss of loved ones, his “Pen pushing against/ time, against cancer, against love.”