The Catalog of Broken Things
The four conceptual poems in The Catalog of Broken Things question identity in the face of disaster and change, emptiness and encounter. The poems break human experience into basic components: waking, sleeping, loss, memory, imagination, empathy, responsibility to oneself and others. The Catalog combines raw emotional intensity with surreal imagery to explore the notion of “story,” a tool we use to create structure and meaning out of uncertainty.
Cover design: Beth Ford
Publication date: October 1, 2016
Born in Russia, A. Molotkov moved to the US in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993. Published by Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Raleigh Review, Cider Press Review, Pif, 2 River and elsewhere, Molotkov is the winner of several short fiction and poetry contests and a 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship. He co-edits The Inflectionist Review. Molotkov’s translation of a Chekhov story was included by Knopf in their Everyman Series. He plays the Armenian duduk and is better at tennis than most other Portland writers. Please visit him at AMolotkov.com
Praise for The Catalog of Broken Things
You are holding...although it looks normal...a deeply wild book. Molotkov has many voices that he wrangles into different forms...some punctuated, some not. With ease and beauty, he moves from tender, elegiac poems about a mother to a diaristic travelogue. The Catalog of Broken Things is a book to read and re-read.
— Carl Adamshick
Anatoly Molotkov’s The Catalog of Broken Things is a work of monumental genius and stark, terrible beauty. The poet explores the passage of time, the evolution of the self and society. Molotkov is wise enough to know, “Our past is a / language only we / can speak, on a / good day, and / not fluently,” yet thankfully he tries and triumphs in this astounding collection. A must-read.
—Shaindel Beers, author of A Brief History of Time and The Children’s War and Other Poems
The poems in The Catalog of Broken Things offer a dismantling of more than boundaries—the poems are an annexation. They assume a lexicon larger than our individual meaning-boxes may hold, and the spilling into the Universal creates a new geography altogether. What percolates is an invention, an invitation, to experience mirrors and birthing as inward experimentations toward Self. The poet asserts that vision, the ways in which we allow ourselves to see, is an endless pursuit and entanglement: “I see myself in the street, by the sea, in a cell, in a shell, in a joke, in an accident./ I see my life as a short story, as I prepare to vacate my body,/ my thoughts run after me. My brevity lasts, demands lifelong scrutiny.” When he tells us that “Veins have no traffic lights, no stop signs. Blood laughs at high speeds. Life boils our white cells, runs from the scene of the accident. We are the eggs of our future selves,” we are compelled to pay close attention. The poems in the collection demand that we remain fiercely awake. Each section reflects an additional layer of how we may begin to understand journeys far inward so that we, ultimately, meet ourselves along the way.
— Kelli Allen, author of Otherwise, Soft White Ash and Some Animals
Hawaiʻi Review (review)
Hawaiʻi Review (interview)
KBOO's The Talking Earth with A. Molotkov and Tim Whitsel (radio reading/interview)
Excerpts from The Catalog of Broken Things
I let my dead mother in.
She’s lonely out there on her own.
Her ears are seashells
empty of sea.
She carries me among her bones
where her womb was.
The moon, a breath
away, a dead fact.
I leak into the moment, linger.
my hand, listens. I want to stop, to go
back, to think
it through before
out for me.
My mother brings a pillow full of
her own hair, soft like dawn.
She grew it all her life, and after.
She sleeps lighter with her head
on her own past.
The past, her only coin.
Her lips don't move. She says,
Where is your passport?
I don't have it.
I don't need it yet.
Her eyes are flowers, but softer.
from The Melting Hourglass
you watch me
through the lens of a telescope
my shining eyes magnified
you know me
you trust me
you run to me
there’s no one here
hours turn to glass
as I watch you
through the lens of a telescope
you open your umbrella on a sunny day
and who am I to judge you
it never rains around here
from Your Life as It Is
You wake up in the morning and get out of bed. The carnival is in town. The signs are unmistakable. The calliope song. The smells. The excited voices.
Your husband is making breakfast. He is humming to himself. You would rather have silence, but you will not say anything.
Last year’s footprint is this year’s mudslide. The pawns are running an election to select the king. You receive your own radio transmission from the future. It is encrypted, you don’t know the cipher yet.
You go outside. The bright red sunset is the same as the last time.
from The Protagonist's True Story
In the cellar, our tools wait. We know brick, glass, wood, eye, arm, back. Do we really affect the outcome? Cancer cells don’t sleep. We extend our arms into space, mold it to our will. But not our own stories. We love it all. A flood starts, a flood ends. We fall asleep with each other’s names on our lips.
In the final experiment, you tell me not to come, but I do. When I arrive, you are not there. I step out to look for you. When you arrive, I’m not here. You step out to look for me. We never see each other again.
We swim as far as there is ocean to believe in.
In celebration of the publication of The Catalog of Broken Things, Airlie Press has commissioned a limited-edition broadside of one of A. Molotkov’s poems. Signed and numbered by the author.