Spicer mixes an extreme variety of form. He may write a poetic letter, a long poem divided my roman numbered stanzas, a brief, four line poem, or a long poetic footnote. Throughout all these different works, the essence of Spicer’s lifestyle and obsessions repeats. Certain words and themes permeate each piece in the collection. I find the title, My Vocabulary Did This to Me, fits comfortably.
It seems that Spicer has a jar of ideas that he plays with, or his own personal vocabulary list from which he pulls words. It is not to say that Spicer is a repetitive writer, or has limitations. This is not the case. Spicer’s work stems from his interior, his personal complexity. A poem from the exterior (what I mean is…), might be an ekfrasis, or a fictional narrative. Of course, Spicer does incorporate these sorts of elements sporadically, but generally, his work sprouts from intrinsic intricacy. It is from his personal list of experiences, thoughts and interests that Spicer extracts his poetic terminology. His use of the “letter” form produces this understanding. Also, he employs realistic names to title and construct poems. These names may or may not equal existing identities, but they do evoke familiarity and a Spicer specific tone. The theme of Spicer’s sexuality reoccurs throughout the collection as an obsession, a benefit and as an obstacle, another example of a personalized intimacy.
Spicer’s work might not be relevant to many readers. The heterosexual reader or the traditionalist reader might not wish to concern themselves with Spicer’s many lovers, his many dreams or his interpretation/adaptation of popular religious text. This does not stop Spicer from utilizing his unique visions as context for a poem. I admire his lack of self-consciousness. He dips in and out of obsession, reiterating Spicer issues and schemas throughout, sometimes risking exclusion. Indeed, at times, I, as a reader felt excluded from some of the work. This is not his problem though. This actually encourages me to abundantly select poetic vocabulary from my-self. Spicer enables me to do so with confidence. At times (actually, many times), I resist self-indulgent subject matter because I fear excluding the reader. Although, when I do allow this writing behavior to occur, I feel most at home. Also, my palette seems brighter, my language richer.
My memory poems are consistently well received. Regardless of this reception, I attempted to defy my inclinations toward confessional and memory. Thankfully, I’ve failed. I’ve since come to realize that my strongest work emerges from the landscape of my-self. When I do attempt to produce work from the exterior, it is most vivid and pungent when framed in a memory or personal correlation.
Besides steering me toward my-self, Spicer’s collection also encourages me to submit to my subject-matter tendencies. There are certain topics, experiences, characters and images I hover over consistently, circling them like a vulture while I write. Unfortunately, I admit this is something I attempt to suppress. I may not always succeed at restraining myself, but the anxiety lingers throughout my process. I fret over sounding repetitive or predictable, but when I do surrender to the echoes in my work, I think the work is stronger. This could be the result of honesty or the result of personal expertise. I’m really not sure what it is, but Spicer projects it. I’m learning that what I feared was an oddity or a dysfunctional compulsion, is really a quality of poetics and art. Since I have relinquished my writing insecurities in this regard and since I have stopped worrying about what my readers will think, I am happier with my work. Now, whether or not my obsessions will matter to others is not my problem.