“Stempleman, a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute, embeds scientific knowledge within his short poems in his third book No, Not Today, which is scheduled for release in April. Maps, sunspots, fossils and tectonic plates appear in this volume, juxtaposed with ordinary talk. He holds the collection together with the voice of a companionable if nervous narrator. He entertains, but underneath his jokes lie uncertainties. He worries, “I am still thinking too much/ about what the first moonwalk cost us.” The cost is not just economic, but loss of dreams about the unknown.
After fretting about the moonwalk, he continues with a change of direction: “I have a secondhand horn.” He piles together such comments, and just when a story begins to emerge, he shifts again. This poem ends with “lost alone in the weather again.”
The moon and weather are brackets of physical reality. They are the scientific laws that mark boundaries of Stempleman’s reality. Within the poem, however, his narration scatters like subatomic particles. This breaks down René Descartes’ idea that mental processes are separate from other physical laws.
Throughout his book, Stempleman keeps tension between chaos and logical sequence. He arranges individual poems like a diary, with titles of “Monday” through “Sunday,” but with unexplained gaps and repeated days. Disruption of weekdays parallels the non sequiturs of his comments.
One of the poems titled “Wednesday” celebrates maps, “I remember to laugh again when forced/ to look at the unforced motion in maps.” He ends this poem with geologists, “who each morning/ wake up, look out at the world and sign hooray.” The scientists who study solidified pasts, the geologists, cheer, and Stempleman shares this enthusiasm. Stempleman’s writing is a physical phenomenon, drawing from science as much as the literary tradition.” — Denise Low @ the KC Star