Winner of the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize
Mutiny Gallery follows a mother and son on an exuberant cross-country journey to outposts of Americana. Fleeing domestic peril, Claire embarks with her young son Max on a continental zigzag through psychic and actual states of dislocation, abandon, and absolution. With candor and verve, these poems intertwine terms of class, consumer culture, self-invention, race, rebellion, faith, freedom, and the erotics of the everyday. B. K. Fischer’s luminous collection navigates a woman’s quest to traverse the American landscape with her wits intact, a quest that catches her in nets of caregiving and crisis, love and loss.
Poem after poem, this book channels its brilliance into a novel-in-verse without dulling the light. These poems display cleverness, wittiness, and innovative technique, for which one usually pays a price: a draining away of heart. Not in this case-these poems all have heart, big heart. It’s a terrific book, a fine accomplishment.
—Tony Barnstone, 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize judge
As ever in these situations, the characters must keep telling who they are in order to recall who they were, to discover who they will be: this mother and son are escaping Everything, even each other, and of course all they flee is all they find. Crisscrossing a USA of nightmare museums where Edward Lear is King and the Queen of Heartache is Alice, of course they’re in heaven if only they could stop anywhere, somewhere… America has given B. K. Fischer the Dream and she gives back all she woke to find: Mutiny Gallery! Her visionary poetry is a good mother’s song, her novel a bad boy’s scream. As another of those, I salute her and the revels I long to join.
B. K. Fischer’s maverick museums are archives of domestic peril as well as cultural ephemera: they invoke bridges burned as well as preserved, lives lived near the edge, the desperation of poverty, people falling through the safety net. Catalysts for meditation and metaphor, exceeding their literal sites, these wayward collections give rise to rich ontologies of childhood and piercing intimations of mortality. By such means, Mutiny Gallery brilliantly realizes—and revels in—the deepest possibilities of poetry and art.
If a museum preserves things of value by keeping them in place, the protagonist of B. K. Fischer’s exceptional debut has another idea—she preserves what she values by keeping it in flight. Dynamic, inventive, sonically rich, hard-hitting, whip-smart, and revolutionary in both spirit and form, is among the most thought-provoking and scrupulously crafted books of poetry I have read in years—and certainly the most difficult to put down.