The Echo Chamber by Michael Bazzett is a collection which perpetually examines and reexamines mirrored reflections and refractions of sound and form which propagate into and out of myth. The work seeks to explore the myth of Narcissus and Echo contiguously alongside ideas of modernity, capitalism and the self. The myth, from Book III of Ovid’s Metamorphoses begins with Hera who, in a fit of rage, put a curse on Echo saying “Your voice will be more brief, my dear! You will always have the last word – but never the first”. This curse tangentially tethers itself to Narcissus’ demise and also embodies many motifs that appear in Bazzett’s work. This recurrent focus on myth is pervasive throughout the collection and encourages readers to evaluate how so many echoes of modern day life influence and jangle about the psyche. It begs us to ask what an echo us and how we interact with it. Poems like “Inside the Trojan Horse” where a physical echoing of questions occurs. “And why?” and “And why?” the speaker repeats as they interrogate the Trojans who are forced to answer and then reform that answer. This dialectical device is one way that Bazzett holds the mirror to readers, and to the characters within each poem. He states:
And where did the invaders lie?
Even as we celebrated, drinking
wine deep into the night,
they were always
there, among us—
And where did the invaders lie?
Deep in the courtyard
of the sacred temple—
And who put them there?
And who put them there?
We did (Bazzett 23-24).
Reminiscent of C.P. Cavafy’s “Waiting for the Barbarians”, this poem comes to the reader as an echo out of a myth, a revenant voice out of death. It gives a collective voice to the Trojans as they respond to questions associated with their demise. So much of this work builds out of prior knowledge with echoes of The Iliad and that which was lost in the story.
The narrator functions out of a kind of pseudo-invisibility as many of these poems look outward and remain in the third-person point of view. It makes sense that a work occupied with the myth of Narcissus is wary of the use of the “I”. Only occasionally do poems such as “At Fifty” or “I Decided to Invent a Poet” employ the first-person wherein the “I” might be read, not as a persona, but as Bazzett himself. In whatever case, Bazzett’s voices remains omnipresent as poems oscillate between a series of perspectives all working to illuminate some aspect of the human condition whether it be through our relationship to memes and or our children. Bazzett works to peel back layers of the ego while remaining grounded in the verdant imagery of the physical world such as in “The Wall”. He states:
It seemed the best way
was to dig a narrow trench, plant
some broken glass and cinderblocks,
cover with a thin layer of soil
add sun and water,
then watch the wall
grow. (Bazzett 27)
Here is an example, a snapshot perhaps, of Bazzett’s outward gaze accompanied with a careful attention to sonication and the line. The speaker here is one of the observer as they describe and forecast the construction and eventually growth of a wall. It is worth noting that this poem appears after “Inside the Trojan Horse” which inevitably draws the readers mind to the wall surrounding Troy. The growing wall serves as the extended conceit on which this poem hinges as the wall eventually “began to appear on maps,/ showing up as a sort of dull/ blade pushing into the atlas” ( Bazzett 28). The wall develops its own mythology tilting readers into thinking about what it means to build a wall, a wall that grows with time and eventually consumes the speaker
As the wall curves above us,
and our nights are no longer troubled
by the indifferent stars. (Bazzett 29)
This poem performs the work of reflection, the wall itself becomes a reflection of the reader’s own occlusions however by the poems end there is a brief notion undermining the negative associations with putting up such defenses by stating that “our nights are no longer troubled/ by indifferent stars” (Bazzett 29).
Stylistically, these poems are predominantly free verse and occasionally follow some stanzaic constraint. There is a great pleasure in the way these works move across the page and use that movement to convey the breath with careful control of caesura and white space. Out of this style comes a wide range of poems where Bazzett employs humor, grotesqueness, eloquence and remorse. While in conversation with many other works of retelling, Bazzett’s esoteric style deepens our understanding of what an echo chamber truly is; from its origin to its appearance in our day to day life. Bazzett even goes so far as to contemplate the poetic line itself in “This Line Means Nothing” as he writes:
This line means nothing
until you read it
and then it’s already three lines
back and means something
when you read it first
and now it’s something we’re changing
together… (Bazzett 82)
The poem appears late and, as one might gleam from the excerpt above, it invokes a sense of metacognition as Bazzett uses the line to draw reader’s attention to the line. We are asked to acknowledge what the passage of lines means, to consider how by the time we begin to contemplate such a question, a line has already passed. In many ways this contemplation on the line offers a different kind of echo or sounding board for readers to consider the work. Broadly, the principle what this poem, the book as a whole, encapsulates is the physicality of an echo itself. It recognizes both the sound and the surface upon which it bounces. Through this, Bazzett artfully leads readers to contemplate the mythology of the self through a deftly woven collection.
Anastasios Mihalopoulos is a Greek/Italian American writer from Boardman, Ohio. He holds a B.S. in both Chemistry and English from Allegheny College and is currently an MFA candidate in the Northeast Ohio MFA Consortium (NEOMFA). He was awarded scholarships to attend the 2022 Juniper Writing Institute as well as the 2022 Napa Valley Writer’s Conference. He has also previously attended the Writing Workshops in Greece: Thessaloniki-Thasos in 2018 as well as the Writing Workshops in Greece: Crete in 2022. He also serves as the poetry center assistant for Etruscan Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Foothill Poetry Journal, , West Trade Review, Helix Literary Journal, The Great Lakes Review, and elsewhere. He is currently working on his debut poetry collection. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, skiing, and joyous conversations with family and friends.