ABC Moonlight by Ben Estes
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With mounting intensity extended across three sections of poems, Ben Estes' achingly personal second collection unfolds to reveal an uncertain past, present, and future that is by turns mysterious and beautiful. ABC Moonlight contains poems that are filled with reflective awareness and subconsciously constructed dreams; a sweeping landscape of queer Midwestern loss and desire; and pairs of "folded poems" that question love, hope, and vulnerability in our current times. Rather than prescribing answers, Estes offers the reader intimacy and open-handed, big-hearted consolation—"Now to let something go / of myself, / without any need / to replace it."
Ben Estes' new poems, here gathered together into numbered, cadenced and syncopated movements, trace themselves onto the reader’s consciousness like a sort of extended, scorched earth sigh: ''Humans will / lose their purpose,' it says. Phew.' Flood and fire focused, like the times they are written inside of, the poems' language drives straight towards, and eventually lands in, the telegraphic delivery of dreams, where loss and love are confused and finally remembered to be the same thing. The unexpectedness of fantasy mixed with the inevitability of memory is narrated by Estes from both before and after. —Matt Connors
Valéry says that the future is "the most perceptible fraction of the present moment," but ABC Moonlight gets us, as Devo says, jerkin' back'n' forth between what a mind once made up and the life to come. The writing here is a generous fusion of poetry and dreaming, one in which the poet-dreamer is ever cognizant of the collective as he plumbs his mind to find love and death in the American navel. If this book were a band, it would be called Ben Estes and Latent Destiny, and they'd play at your place every night. —Graham Foust
This poetry is snaily, somehow: both within and looking upon. It suggests we have to hide, but also plod on. And that is just how things feel, so often now. Ben Estes's new poems give me the feeling of life, aliveness, what it's like. There's apocalypse in ABC Moonlight but also tender, gorgeous wondering about human futures, wonder in both the forward-looking action sense (I wonder what will happen) and wonder in whatever is left of the Romantic address–awe and amazement. The line is magic again. The moon is babble. —Hannah Brooks-Motl
Ben Estes lives in Kingston, NY. Before this book, he wrote a book of poems called Illustrated Games of Patience (The Song Cave, 2015). Ben worked as the editor of A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: the poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton (with Alan Felsenthal); Together & Alone, the photographs of Karlheinz Weinberger; and the poetry anthology On The Mesa: An Anthology of Bolinas Writing (The Song Cave, 2021). He has most recently shown his paintings at Situations Gallery and Paula Cooper Gallery, both in NYC.
A reading, with Six Organs of Admittance