Delightful Clockwork

The Hour Sets,
Michael C. Boyko (Calamari Press)

Derek White does all the artwork for Calamari books and with Michael Boyko's collaboration the two have published a wonderful book in The Hour Sets.  

Take a look at the website to see some of the complex and amazing illustrations.  You feel as though you are opening the face of a marvelous pocket watch that keeps permutating before your eyes. 

Michael Boyko creates an elegant program for this book:

      They are called the Hour Sets, and divided into
      hours, not because each cultural period lasts only
      an hour, but 1 hour is how long you must study the
      symbols of each cultural period in order to learn
      everything about it. The remaining 12 hours of
      each day are spent forgetting what you have
      learned about each cultural period, in the order
      you have learned it, by engaging only the symbols
      of your own cultural period. This is called sleep.

Boyko's prose poetry repeats with each Set notes about The Occupant, The Researcher, and The Academy.

Onto this brilliantly simple armature, Boyko then elaborates a marvelous cabinet of wonders:  rabbit and snake skins, a stone figure of a girl, various books and cots, tools, clothing, a layer of fine white dust, a pileated woodpecker, a movie being made, and, near the end, a strange ritual sacrifice.  There are also children's games, fanciful creatures, puppets and masters. " 1 of these marionettes holds a small rusty knife." 

The language of each piece keeps fluidity and structure balanced, keeps morphing scene, objects, lists, acts, agencies.  At the same time,
for all the attention being given to research, study, the regulations of the Academy, the love of Time and its hours,  the precise voice conveys a magical warmth for all that is human. 

In Hour 12, the Researcher eats a chocolate cupcake.

     He sticks a small candle into it and lights the candle
     with a match.  He balances the cupcake on his knee,
     looks at it for a while, then picks it up and blows out
     the small flame.  He takes a bite of the cupcake and
     closes his eyes.  He wakes up on the cot holding a 
     bundle of flowers and a teddy bear.  He throws the
     bear down on the ground and places the flowers
     on the pillow.  Sitting on the cot, he writes his
     penultimate list.

By now we know to expect the List to be marvelous and Boyko delivers each time. 

The Hour Sets
is a most delightful clockwork of prose poetry that keeps alive a tradition you can't quite name and intrigues you with surprises just elusive enough to  be fresh every time. 

          Robert Garlitz 2008