Make Nothing Happen, Reviewed by Andrew Borgstrom

make-nothing-happenMake Nothing Happen

By Rufo Quintavalle
Oystercatcher Press
A5, 24pp.
ISBN: 978-1-905885-12-1.

Reviewed by Andrew Borgstrom

Things I thought when Make Nothing Happen by Rufo Quintavalle arrived in the mail:

Is this John Madera’s clever way of dumping me?

Is Quintavalle aware that Madera is using Make Nothing Happen in such a manner?

Why is Madera breaking up with me?

Would Quintavalle use his book in such a manner?

Could this be qualified as a text breakup?

Is that one of George Saunders’s gappers of Frip on Make Nothing Happen’s cover?

Will someone please hold me?

First sentences of numerous attempts at reviewing Make Nothing Happen:

This review should be perforated in the center.

This is the fifth chapbook I’ve reviewed for Madera, and doesn’t that require a more formal farewell?

I decided not to smash the mosquito with Make Nothing Happen.

I decided not to cry while listening to Mother Flux.

Quintavalle’s poetry appeals to me, which is saying something, or writing something, or making nothing.

Will someone other than John Madera please hold me?

Things I wanted to write instead of this review:

All the poems I haven’t written using all the words I haven’t used, which Quintavalle used, which Quintavalle wrote.

A text-message telling off John Madera.

Nothing, which is what—, which is I—, which is usually—, which is what James Thurber said would happen.

A letter to John Madera.

A letter to Rufo Quintavalle.

A letter I wrote to Rufo Quintavalle but sent to John Madera:

Dear Rufo Quintavalle,

Oh, Quintavalle, have I told you I lived in a dentist office basement for two years? When you pay rent each month, the dentist tells you to go ahead and take all of last month’s magazines from the waiting room. I was a month behind for two years. I missed all four dental appointments. Did you know in dental waiting rooms 75% of the patients read the magazine from last page to first page?

Oh, Quintavalle, I read your book from first page to last page and then from last page to first page. One of the places I read your book felt like one of your poems: “Empty / streets, / a line / outside / a film.” And the rest of the page is empty. Nothing surrounds the poetry (well, the title). If the nothingness could speak, would it say, like Williams, “men die every day / for lack / of what is found / there”? or would it say, like MacLeish, “A poem should not mean / but be”? or would it say, paraphrasing Frost, that the worst thing you can ask a person to do is paraphrase a poem in duller language? Did you know I have stigmatism in my left eye? That is why my eyes are red and swollen. Don’t believe John Madera if he tells you otherwise. What aren’t you making happen right now? I will stop asking questions after you say, “I have not done much / but I have seen the trees.”

Oh, Quintavalle, when I read your last poem,“The trees,” I wanted to look at the trees outside my window, but I didn’t. When I read “Rocks,” I wanted to look at the rocks in my path, but I didn’t. When I read “Peace, the sun, a whimbrel,” I wanted to read Thomas Hardy’s “Neutral Tones,” but I didn’t. When I read “I went outside to a white sun in a grey sky,” I wanted to read “Neutral Tones” again, but I didn’t even read it the first time. When I read the line, “home, James, fuck the horses,” I wanted to rewatch the short film titled after the line you twisted, but I didn’t, then I wanted to finally watch the bestiality in my backyard made beautiful in Zoo, but I didn’t. When I read “I went down in the basement,” I didn’t think of God, and I certainly didn’t want “to speak to God, my Id,” but I did want to find a way to mention the dentist’s basement I lived in, and I did.



A conversation using Quintavalle’s text:

Madera: “All that porphyry to say suffering”?

Andrew: “I can’t guarantee / anything, but that / would be something, no?”

Madera: “When you pray, do you pray to pain?”

Andrew: “I try not to aim / anywhere as such, / head nowhere special.”

Quintavalle: “Which explains nothing / but without which we cannot explain.”

A good place to end:

“Each time it must have seemed / that this was it:”


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