Ecstatic Émigré: An Ethics of Practice by Claudia Keelan (University of Michigan Press, 2018)
Reviewed by Michelle Mitchell-Foust
To hold a forest dear is easy in Oregon. Where I live, forested land preaches the tenacity of growth, overgrowth, understory. Scented speech, the call and response between plants and plants, and plants and animals, is everywhere, almost terrifying in its abundance. One might say that the forest remains the third terrain of my life, after field and desert. And in its arms I have been fighting the loneliness that comes from a years-long absence of poetry, or rather, my own lines of poetry in conception. Or perhaps I have been listening to an overabundance of words that I can’t place. Regardless, this is not an even exchange–forest for poem-making–but the cursive of branches and the color of eccentric miniature often make the poems of my days. For the time being, searching the characteristics of the smallest visible life is the sublime.
Landscape of The Wait by Jami Macarty (Finishing Line Press, 2017)
Derived from the ancient word for “watching,” waiting seems especially relegated to the human animal. Waiting implies the existence of a thought process as well as biology–a stasis, a trance. The state implies a wish, as a reaction to time and action. It makes sense that the literature of waiting has ancient origins, and that the sub-genre thrives during war. The world’s most important epics are also part of the body of the literature of waiting. The Odyssey and Penelope’s wait, and The Aeneid and Dido’s wait are two of our most essential examples. Naturally, the literature of waiting thrived during World War II, when Yehuda Amichai wrote the marvelous poem I heard him read in Hebrew and in English at the Hillel Center at UCLA in the 1990’s, where he said, in essence, that the war was not worth the poems made by the light of warfare. It begins
Out of three or four in a room,
One is always standing at the window.
Forced to see the injustice among the thorns,
The fires on the hills.
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (FSG Originals, 2017)
An old chain spools around a metal pulley next to a swinging kitchen door. The silver chain comes up from somewhere under the wooden living room floor and returns to the same place. When I pull it, it gives a little. On the pulley, three words circle, raised in the brown metal: Closed, Open, and Check. And there is a dial, a hefty metal switch that only moves a centimeter. Other than the give, nothing happens. It’s neat and old and mysteriously low to the ground next to the built-in hutch. An examination of the basement where the chain ends and begins again reveals nothing.
This chain is just one of those objects humans wonder about when they find them after they have moved houses, as I have just done. Continue reading
Review: Whereas by Layli Long Solider (Gray Wolf Press, 2017)
I was lost, looking for a wedding in the Valley of Fire, Red Rock, Nevada. At every curve in the road, I thought the towering stone formations might reveal my friend’s white dress. When it was clear I wouldn’t find the party, I parked the car and wandered into the crevices between the rocks. I waded through the fine, pink sand to the place where I could see the petroglyphs carved into their faces. Around me were creatures who looked rabbit-human, goat-human, and spirals, and horned insecta. I walked deeper into the rock, looking for more of the 3000-year-old language, the setting sun making the world more red. Continue reading
The Voice of That Singing by Juliet Rodeman (Tupelo Press, 2017)
Early in Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Mirror, a child watches the family barn burning behind their country house. It’s raining. His young mother watches too, her back to the camera, the water dripping off the porch awning. Still the barn burns. No urgency, as though a barn burning is a natural part of the landscape. Over the course of the film, in every room of the country house, the watcher has the feeling that the child, the narrator—Tarkovsky’s voice reciting his father’s poems–is living at once every age of his life. Continue reading