Excitement Tax uses a series of tonally various prose sonnets to trace the deeply uneasy relationship of a grown-up person and his imaginary friend, Walter Weaselbird. The pair crash through thickets of erudition in search of candy. Often they find candy. �
“In Excitement Tax, John Emil Vincent has written a collection of prose poems with complex skeletons, each phrase connected to its context. He manages tone shifts precisely. Poems follow through on such premises as inventing an instrument “inspired by my daycare choir, that sort of presses, almost steps on, children,” dialogue between Walter Wimple Weaselbird (one of the book’s characters) and Socrates, and a child who “never wanted to rehear a single story.”“King Midas’s Idiot Brother” takes King Midas out of his fairy tale and imagines him doing a kind of alt-comedy routine in which “he’d pose as the suicides of famous writers and the audience would guess how.” But a familiar reality creeps in, the narrator notes that “relevance is a bitch,” and King Midas must do a bit about Carver instead of Chekhov. Even in such fantastic ideation, we can be dulled down, taxed. This poem ends with an invitation that carries throughout: “Behold the life of the mind."
- Tess Liem, Montreal Review of Books, Spring 2018
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