By Alex Carrigan
Tommy Blake’s lacuna (Kith Books, 2022) is a chapbook of poems that examine the silence that emerges from the body. The poems were written during Blake’s teenage years and were reexamined and edited years later. Instead of reading like extended tracts of teenage angst, the poetry of lacuna reveals a surprising complexity of the teenage psyche and how the issues that arise in those formative years continue to impact one’s mind in early adulthood.
Many of the pieces in lacuna are borrowed from Greek and Latin philosophical terms, which feels appropriate as ancient Greek and Latin philosophy are often the first foray into the subject for most young persons. It's also in how Blake writes the pieces in the chapbook that adds to the tone and feel of the collection. The poems are written almost entirely in lowercase and use colorful language and phrases like “cocksucking vampire” and “pissing stardust,” which capture that teenage irreverence but uses them for further exploration of themes common in teenage literature such as gender and sexual identity, suicidal ideation, and anxiety.
The title of the chapbook, “lacuna,” refers to the idea of an empty space. Throughout the collection, Blake plays with the ideas of emptiness and space, starting with the first poem in the collection, “void/voice,” where they write “this void pulses through my temple, / lurking behind a body / until it trembles with dour / boredom…” Other pieces in the collection look at space as between physical or mental spaces. This includes poems like “mermaids” and “the room/pathos in water,” which both use the space underwater as a physical disconnect from the surface. In the latter, Blake writes:
“but floral baths are depressing
anyway as i’ve coughed up water or
tears, and my breathing is wrung as
The collection also includes a motif of reflections and reflective surfaces, whether it’s the narrator examining themselves in mirrors of observing objects that offer warped reflections. The poem “fuckdown,” for example, includes lines like “two roads / that i see in my mirror, / turning back; i can't breathe / an identity when other worlds / have their hold on me / like dissociation / does…” “Surrogate” is another word that comes up a few times in the chapbook, as a surrogate could be seen as a reflection of someone who couldn’t fulfill a specific role or place and had to be replaced. This includes pieces like the titular poem where Blake writes, “and anything left / is a surrogate body / or a simulation of dissociation. / it is clear that i'm gone.”
Tommy Blake’s lacuna is a raw and deeply personal reflection of teenage angst and anxiety that approaches the matter with a learned wisdom. The poems in the chapbook are often difficult to read at times due to their brutal and critical examination of the self, but Blake’s distance from their writing at the original time of writing and the selection of pieces for the final version means that the collection is able to stand as a time capsule and a relic. The poems are written in the throes of instability, but the precise assemblage of the chapbook brings a sturdy whole together.
Alex Carrigan (he/him) is an editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. His debut poetry chapbook, May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), was longlisted for Perennial Press' 2022 Chapbook Awards. He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Barrelhouse, Sage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), Stories About Penises'(Guts Publishing, 2019), and more.