Matthew Tuckner’s poem “Lincoln Logs, invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright,” appearing in issue Bear Review 7.1, is a model for anyone looking to incorporate secondary source material into their poetry. From the jump, the title offers the first of several interesting bits of information that Tuckner manages to nestle within this smart poem. Readers, like myself, may find themselves moving through the poem with search tabs open: “Was the Guggenheim originally going to be red?” or “The Garden Of Earthly Delights naked woman riding a bird.” The density of Tuckner’s language and variety of source material results in lush, yet concrete imagery. Reading the poem is like viewing a mind map of Tuckner’s creative process. The personal and intellectual connections he makes between architecture, caviar harvesting, and a sixteenth-century Dutch triptych, among others, are well-curated and surprising.
Much like the Guggenheim’s spiraled design, the logic of “Lincoln Logs, invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright,” is more lyric than linear. On the surface, Tuckner hints at a narrative through setting and dialogue. A mother makes such bizarre declarations as: “Almost / all caviar is harvested from dead fish, as wind is almost guaranteed / to be caused by the high pressure descent of cold air” (lines 4-6). The theme of parents introduced in the title unfolds through the speaker and mother’s relationship. In light of the cold strangeness of the mother’s dialogue, the reader might imagine what it must have been like for the speaker to be raised by a parent with this perspective. By extension, what was it like to be the son of an iconic architect--the man in whose design some of the most treasured art lives and is displayed?
As you listen to and read “Lincoln Logs, invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of well-known architect Frank Lloyd Wright,” I invite you to imagine the poem as a museum that Tuckner creates through imagery. Lean into the tension created by the poem's docent-speaker as they tell you more about the art that is not there rather than what is. Or, to echo the title, Lincoln Logs are not the Guggenheim just as John Lloyd Wright was not his father—and that difference is ok. The speaker prefers the imagination, the plastic toy, and the Garden of Earthly Delights more than their present reality. Tuckner encourages us to participate in the speaker’s imaginative perspective—to see what is not there as much as what is.