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Black Aperture: Poems (Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets)

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  102 reviews

In his moving debut collection, Matt Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother's suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor. In "Outgoing," the speaker erases his brother's answering machine message to save his family from "the shame of dead you / answering calls." In other poems, once-ordinary objects become dreamlike. A

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Kindle Edition, 72 pages
Published May 13th 2013 by LSU Press (first published May 1st 2013)
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Average rating 4.30  · 
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Vanessa
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my shelf since the Poetry Out Loud podcast featured Rasmussen when he was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2013. I had never read it cover to cover though, which I recently got the urge to sit down and do.

When Rasmussen was in his MFA program, he was asked by his instructor, the late poet Bill Knott, to write a poem "with some personal investment." That poem, about his older brother's suicide when Rasmussen was still in high school, eventually lead to this short colle
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Melanie
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I wish the god of this place / would put me in its mouth / until I dissolve, until / the field doesn't end / and I am broken down / like a rifle

The lines above from Horse Grazes in My Shadow were enough to capture my attention and urge me to source a copy of Black Aperture pronto.

There is no question that this poet writes with insight and ingenuity and the poems specifically on suicide are especially powerful, but overall I was a tad nonplussed.

I have an inkling that it has a lot to do wit
...more
Emily
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5, but damn, do I love this one:


Chekhov's Gun

Nothing ever absolutely has to happen. The gun
doesn't have to be fired. When our hero sits

on the edge of his bed contemplating the pistol
on his nightstand, you have to believe he might

not use it. Then the theatre is sunk in blackness.
The audience is a log waiting to be split open. The faint

scuff of feet. Objects are picked up, shuffled away.
Other things are put
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Galih Khumaeni
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
My imagination erodes
my mind. Sometimes
I wander the shore
of my memory searching
for what I've set afloat
or buried, finding
only fragments of you
I've had to disremember


Whew, Black Aperture from Matt Rasmunsen revolves around suicide of Rasmussen’s brother. The writing is spare, tight, and gripping; Rasmussen definitely makes every word count
Nina
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The overriding theme of Black Aperture is the suicide of Rasmussen’s brother. The writing is spare, tight, and gripping; Rasmussen definitely makes every word count. Although the theme is dark, as evidenced in the first word of the title, “Black,” the second word, “Aperture,” shows the reader an opening. This could obviously be the opening of the gun barrel, but it could also be suggestive of the opening of grief toward integration of the event. The word aperture is commonly used in photography, ...more
Jsavett1
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Aperture lives up to the hype it has garnered. Rasmussen explores his brother's tragic suicide in Faulkner-esque perspective shifts, moving closer and farther with his linguistic lens to the actual event, its aftermath and the moments preceding it. Honestly, Jane Hirshfeld best captures what Rasmussen is about on the back of this book: "the subject here is the suicide of a brother. What cannot be altered remains; yet by changing saying, seeing is also made wider, more openly porous. The li ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I picked this up because it was longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry in September 2013.

If I know anything about grief, it is that you feel different ways about the same event on different days. It never goes away, but it cycles through different emotions, and you re-remember it in ways that are stark and new and awful. This entire volume feels that way, with several poems sharing the same name: "After Suicide." Many of these work through the poet's experiences with his brother's sui
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Jee Koh
The poems look at his brother's suicide in different ways, through rather surreal imagery. The verse is competent, but nothing took away my breath. At the end of the book, I am left with the rather banal thought, what will he write about next? That is a problem, I think, with books that are too narrowly thematic. And isn't calling oneself "Matt" rather too chummy? I am reminded of a Facebook post by an editor who complained of emails from strangers addressing him by his first name.
Jack Waters
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jack by: Michael
Shelves: read-in-2015
Solid work on mourning, light, darkness, memory.
Dirk
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As noted in many other reviews, the majority of the poems in this collection contain meditations on the suicide of the poet's brother, which makes me glad that I read it on a sunny day, long before retiring to bed. These are hard poems, but Rasmussen doesn't bludgeon the reader. They are spare and concise, with accessible images: "At the base/ of each bare tree/ someone has spilled/ a bucket of shadow." "The bus brakes squeal/ like a mouse pinned/ under a microphone." I felt winded after finishi ...more
Meg Tuite
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful and mesmerizing collection by Rasmussen. How suicide can rupture everywhere.
X
"The mystery
begins like this:

We are more likely
to kill ourselves

than be killed
by someone else.

I am the pistol
saying, I will only

say this once.
Do not open

the tiny door
in the back

of your head.
All alone when

all alone, we
are asleep

inside our
murderer. There's ...more
Brandon
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A melancholy collection of poetry. Unsurprising, considering the subject matter. Amazing visual language, struck my imagination such that I found myself seeing exactly what he described in terrifying detail. He has a way of spinning sad or menial events into a fantastical metaphor, which I found engaging. Worth the fairly quick read
J & J
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was able to relate/connect to many poems in this collection.
Sara Khayat
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, almost surreal, poems addressing a brother's suicide. Light exists in the most interesting instances.

Thanks, Megan for introducing me to this one.
Grady
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poems suffused with the agony and redemptive responses to death

Few poets have been able to respond to the devastation of death of a loved one with the power and the variations of feelings as young newcomer Matt Rasmussen. His poems are skeletal in his use of so few words laid out in a spare, lucid manner, yet the emotions he conveys are so palpably real that they at first startle and shock and then on re-reading them answer so many questions we al have about the grieving process. His
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Philip Gordon
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2014
'Black Aperture' is a stunning dissertation in almost complete form about the wholly human sense of absence: Rasmussen tackles the idea of loss from every avenue, and in doing so, gives a view into the own black chasm of a longing that either is, or is missing, in his own heart.

What sets Rasmussen's poems apart from simple elegy's or meditations on loss is their refusal to reach for the reltable or expected sense of longing for resolution. Everything he paints is a near incomplete pi
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Susan
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
(3/16/14: I changed my rating to 4 stars. I don't know why I was so ungenerous last week. This is a good book. Here's what I originally wrote.)

3.5 stars

Rasmussen writes his way through his brother's long-past suicide in this much-celebrated first book of poems. The best pieces, for me, are those that address the suicide--or the brother--directly. Rasmussen captures the shock, the grief, and the black humor jumbled up in the aftermath of this violent death, and he doesn't
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Garrett Zecker
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and true, Black Aperture is a collection of mostly previously published poems by Matt Rasmussen that explore the fundamental meaning, processing, relationship with, and interpretation of death. The speaker of many of the poems is a young, albeit ironically mature man who is examining the role that death has played in his life in one very shocking and terrible example

The images in this book are illuminating, unique, shocking, and grotesque, but all capture the morbid fas
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Michael
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
from Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen:

Phone


At the foot of your grave
I planted our black phone

wrapped up in its coiled cord.
I'd hoped its ring would

shudder upward and each blade
of grass become a chime, pealing.

But together we decide
which way the dream goes

like spilled water on a table
we carry across the room.

I wait for the lawn to ring
while the cord sprouts

and a receiv
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Paul (formerly known as Current)
Some beautiful lines in the darkness of the theme of suicide:

From: The Wave:

No island is an island,

he said. There is no new land,
just the same body broken open.

From: Field with Whales

A boy sprints through birches,
enters a clearing, becomes a deer.


From: In Whoever's Hotel Room This Is

On the back of my photo

you wrote, This isn't you,
and you were right,

it no longer was
...more
Maggie
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in its entirety the evening it arrived in the mail. There is so much refinement and so much heart in each of these poems - rarely does a modern collection stop me so suddenly. This is what poetry should be.
elise
5/5
this is one of the best poetry collections i’ve ever read. the concept/topic feels a lot more personal to me, which made a lot of the poems particularly touching. completely mesmerizing.

my unquoted favorites are "X (Kafka said),"Outgoing," "Aperture," & "X (My imagination)"

my favorite poems:

"Nothing ever absolutely has to happen. The gun
doesn't have to be fired. When our hero sits

on the edge of his bed contemplating the pistol
on his nightstand, you have to/>my
...more
Liz
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
A deeply moving book of poems on grief, loss, and suicide. This book won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets and was longlisted for the National Book Award for poetry.

I love books of poetry where the same themes feature repeatedly, in different iterations. Here, those themes are snow, a field, deer, shadows. Recurring images make it impossible for us to extricate ourselves from the mindset of the text: we finish one heart-wrenching poem, thinking we are freed now
...more
Jessica
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read, or to be more accurate skimmed, through this while at a trip to the library today. Some of the lines, or word combinations, are rolling around in my mind still. I appreciated his directness and depth. I loved the way the poem was presented, usually separated into groups of two short lines. This gave me time to process it as I moved along. Anyways, so moving! Recurring themes or topics I noticed were leaves, waves, hunting, bullets, God, and most noticeably suicide.

Here's my favorite:
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Elizabeth Houseman
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Black Aperture is a collection of dark, emotional, and beautiful poems. Two of the main focuses are death and suicide, so this content isn't for everyone. This collection is gritty and intense. While reading Black Aperture , I felt a wide range of emotions. This is, in my opinion, a show of good poetry, which is what Rasmussen has crafted in his collection.
Terry
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ll admit it, I just don’t get it. For me, there’s a fine line between writing poetry and writing therapy. While Mr. Rasmussen’s poems are mostly accessible in this collection, there were times I was wondering a) “should I be reading this?” and b) “I don’t think I really care.“ I’m sure this collection was therapeutic for the author and some readers, but it just didn’t work for me.
Sarah
A hidden gem. Expansive fields that house colonies of deer, as if at once you are the deer/watching the deer, but the deer are also poems. Human & inhuman during an autumnal cycle. A lifespan of grief through dream-like fragments.
Pat
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love reading authors who encourage my abstract writing tendencies.
Desiree Rico
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely powerful and beautifully written poetry.
Evan Blackwelder
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first official book of poetry that I’ve read for pleasure and not school and I very much enjoyed it.
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Matt Rasmussen’s poetry has been published in Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, H_NGM_N, New York Quarterly, Paper Darts, and at Poets.org. He’s received awards, grants, and residencies from The Bush Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, and The Corporation of Yaddo. He is a 2012 McKnight Artist Fellow, a former Peace Corps ...more
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“No island is an island,

he said. There is no new land,
just the same body broken open.”
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