I've been reading the three poems of Petals of Zero for nearly a year now, and I still haven't plumed their depths I know. I'm beginning to think that me + Petals is going to a lifelong project, for something about them resists the limpid, surface dipping into that I take away from most modern works of poetry, even my own. At first when I started to read the book, which opens with a long poem in honor of Georgia--the state--I was all prepared for a Johnny Mercer experience, a reassuring and pleasurable nostalgia. I get that a little, but right away my anticipations were blunted by a call of something deeper and more perdurable, like a man falling through down into a pit of ashes and coal. A salutary wake-up call, and as I read it, a lesson in civics and economics from one who, like the old masters, has thought hard about such things and found a progressive line through them. "All things that are unlit Georgia/ black like lapis in a quitted room/ the feedback Georgia/ the anvil's hymnal/ a dial-tone looped in a flophouse Georgia." You can see just from these five lines that Zawacki is not content with one time or place, for his vocabulary flipflops almost painfully between a King James sort of diction, and a Britney/Janet/Kylie fascination with modern technology (like "dial tone" and "feedback") (come on, wasn't "Feedback" the last great Janet Jackson single?) And beyond the wide spectrum of allusion (and register), a subtle music knits all this empty space together. Listen, you can hear it in the gnarled prosodics of "lapis in a quitted room" versus "looped in a flophouse Georgia."
When you call a book Petals of Zero, Petals of One, even a dolt like I knows it's something about digital vs analog, but binaries appear along the trellis of Zawacki's poems like bright blossoms, always in pairs. "The empress and the outcast." "Oar stroke, key stroke." "Gauntwater and brittlewhite." "Talcum code & piston." Let me study up on this some more; in the meantime I can safely say that Zawacki is among the more interesting poets published by the unpredictable Talisman House of New Jersey.