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The poems of Orchids spring from the margins of contemporary masculinity. A rich undercurrent of melancholy and desire seethes beneath the cool rhetorical playfulness of these lyrical monologues, as anguished speakers face the unfeasibility of confession.
The ghosts of a shared cultural imagination also haunt these “stifling” and skewed domestic spaces: Caravaggio’s castrated head of Goliath confronts existential crisis in an airport hotel shower. Dead gay film icons explain themselves by invoking Superman comics and Dostoevsky. A love poem beginning with familiar sentiments takes refuge among phantom victims of the Reign of Terror.
Beyond such fantastic flights and metamorphoses, Orchids remains most troubled by the everydayness of its melodramas, so that the physical act of washing up inspires a set of meditations on the self and body, a creeping weed and the man from the phone company each pose some unspeakable threat, and an innocent bit of teenage cross-dressing gives way to an irreconcilable sense of loss.
‘Orchids is a distinguished debut: clever but emotional, ingenious but affecting. The poems are a self-sufficient pleasure, and promise very well for the future.’ —Andrew Motion
‘Rapid, surprising and unlikely, JT Welsch’s poems spin brilliant variations on the recession, translation, gender studies and war. Strangely and completely convincingly, these subjects are refracted through the love poems which comprise this pamphlet. Hammered out in stanzas which show an inviting formal authority and are a pleasure to read, Orchids re-routes the work of his great St. Louis predecessors for the 21st century.’ —John McAuliffe