A collection of poems that contemplate the bureaucracy of the mind through interior political cabinets
Taking its name from the banal, purgatorial space outside (but inside) a doctor’s office, Well Waiting Room imagines the conversations we have with ourselves at this liminal site as an exchange between interior bureaucrats, each of whom governs a particular aspect of the psyche. The poems explore the dynamics of this political ministry, which includes the Cabinets of Desire, Indulgences, Self-Preservation, Ordinary Affairs, Ambivalence, Confrontations, and many others—there’s even a press secretary, a curator, and a general counsel. Like a cabinet of curiosity wrapped in red tape, the poems examine the compartmentalization of the mind and the confounding news of the day.
Formally, the poems range from dramatic monologues to combative sonnets, quippy memos to voice-y prose blocks, incantatory interludes to dreamlike visual landscapes. Sometimes, the poems address a purely internal conflict: Why do we lie to ourselves, indulge in schadenfreude, repeat the same mistakes? Other times, the poetic lens points outward like a spear, confronting the external universe: social injustice, polar ice melt, the Trump administration, and other man-made disasters. But in both universes, the poems find joy: the first observation of gravitational waves, the otherworldly beauty of rare marine species, the discovery that you are your own best way out.
For Schlaifer, the underlying question is an epistemological one, an ontological one, a theological one. Why are we here, how do we know things, and why does God—so often—seem to be working against us? In Schlaifer’s bureaucratic vision of the mind, readers will see their own internal voices affectingly (and often humorously) reflected. The book traverses unknowable terrain in sturdy boots. It unearths not answers but better questions for our time.