Joel Craig’s poems first reach out with quiet Midwestern sincerity–precise craft mixed with personal invention–but quickly thicken: “Let me try to lay out what I think I understand” leads to “Las Vegas / and the end of Western history.” Ethical without being political, popular without being pop, personal without being sentimental, Craig sings of how we are “stuck near a river / [we] can feel the evidence of / but can’t imagine.” Filled with elegies to aging rock ‘n’ rollers, explorations of skipping romance, and studied frustration with the world as it appears (and a sincere belief that quiet hands, by themselves, can change it), Craig’s book doesn’t so much demand as much as call out to the reader, in sequence like an all-night deejay party, with time to dance, time to rest, time to go to the bar and get a refill, or outside for a quick cigarette, hitting on someone on the way back in, hoping to strut, step and swing with them.
“One key experience shaping my poetics is that I’ve spent years DJ-ing records, many different styles of music. I’ve learned not only how to put together an arrangement, but how to bring a room along with it.” – Joel Craig with Andy Fitch, The Conversant
“What plays out in The White House is a poetics in flux, far less concerned with convincing the reader of methodical and theoretical maturity—the speaker ever doomed to be “the I who thought I knew who I was” (“Thin Red Line”)—than it is with measuring the effects of various modes of responsive reading [of poetry, places, histories, humans].” – Phantom Limb
“For Craig, time is awry before the book even “begins,” starting with a “pause”; this same “pause” recurs again, further down the page, at the book’s mid-point; a final “pause” completes the text, at the page’s bottom line.” – HTMLGIANT