“A Wild Clarity”: John Wall Barger’s The Mean Game

The Mean Game
by John Wall Barger
(Palimpsest Press, 96 pages, $18.95 CDN / $17.95 USD)

Suppose not only the laws of physics, but the laws of morality played out before our eyes, moment to moment, in the entirety of things, from depth to surface. Suppose this were a world where all animate beings had feelings, thoughts, and purposes, and where even intentions had consequences—where our cruelties would come back not as phantoms, but as matter. Suppose, moreover, that instead of falling asleep to this reality, or lulling our way out of it, we were to lurch into it again and again, into a full view of our own excesses, crimes, and deformed dreams. Such is the world of John Wall Barger’s book of poetry The Mean Game. Poem after poem wakes us up to ourselves and shakes us into new cadences. I read agog.