"Fictional Character: The Ernie Poems" is a trajectory of convulsions gifted to one human being. Phil Weidman's chapbook (Rattesnake Press; Rattlechaps Chapbook Series #27) places all of his burdens onto one character, Ernie, and revels in the freedom of release. While the author submits to the speculation that this collection of work is a projection of his own psyche, he also exalts poetry as a "bridge to a fresh perspective" and striving for "that."
I picked three poems, "They Don't Go There", "A Matter of Scale", and "A Frequent Answer", as they pain the questions of rejection, sexuality, microscopic analyses, and ambivolence. Seduced by Ernie in "They Don't Go There" I revisited this quest for understanding the nature of love, and the simple but unacknowledged causes that lead a man to undisclosure. Are men only to express words of love towards beings that are unconditional towards them? The ability to voice love for a weapon, a pet, things that Ernie probably are attached to, and only perform at his presence and instruction is compared to rewarding a woman with the declaration. I don't want to sound like a male-basher... women "don't go there" either.
The title, "A Matter of Scale" immediately evoked images of Kafka, and a big talking insect. However, Ernie doesn't wake up and discover his nose gone (Gogol), or that he is a gigantic bug. Still on the intuitive perception of what we don't see daily, he brings to clear vision those mites, bugs, or anything else that may be hidden to the naked eye. Begin the poem, and you see, yes, ants, who have better designs of capitalism. Something extraordinary happens, he is able to bring in technology without evoking tiring images of the golden arches, and other excuses to ponder what needs to be fixed. Yes, we are wireless, and so are ants; there is something in the air, and he is the unwilling accomplice.
"A Frequent Answer", emerges as a very open, contemplative piece. In the context of politics, war, and the battle between the classes, Ernie becomes the iconic non-participator. The hero, of course, is the imagination; Ernie is rethinking throughout the poem, speculating that his stiff tongue is one short rope away from martyrdom.
Ernie is complex, and likable.