Chap Nook 13: Poli, Hume, Waldrep
In Jessica Poli’s The Egg Mistress, interior worlds emphasize the deceptively familiar: birds, salt, teeth. Yet there is always something fresh to be unearthed, and the process is charged with the erotic. The power of these poems stems from the poet’s ability to reach farther into an object; the rapture is in the fracturing of what is carefully being contained:
If I could speak mineral.
If I could only eat bonemeal. If the cabbage
learned not to grow roots. If you were the barn
and I was the peeled corn.
One cannot help but feel as if he or she were a houseguest in Poli’s conjuring. Readers will find it hard to look away from this private spectacle. In the title poem, we are made to decide whether the speaker wants none of it, or everything. The effect is irresistible:
In the kitchen, there are two of myself—
one cooking, stirring, sautéing,
one lying dead on the slick tile,
crabs crawling and tangling in her hair.
I step over her and fry an egg.
Perhaps the joy of seeing things break open, even “explode”—a piercing resonance in this collection—is the unyielding “I.” Experience is drowned, wrung and pinned to a clothesline: the “I” beholds. There is, nevertheless, a surreal comfort in the speaker’s tendency to flesh out the intimate, and we find ourselves already within the rich aftermath of Poli’s renderings.
Christine Hume’s latest chapbook explores her daughter’s fear of wind in an intimate and complicated way, composing prose poems that allow multiple tones and angles to provide the reader with something of a mood-driven experience.
In the cogs of this book ticks a strong and delicate balance between sentence-focused poesy and scientific or found language, getting deep into the history of
the human encounters with wind while exploring personhood. That is to say, personhood and windhood are made one in this chapbook, personifying the storm of existence between human and environment. The blend of the two is everywhere. Her daughter delivers “uncontainable squalls” and the “wind is an animal born of space.” Hume erases the border between skin and air. After all, a fear of wind is “a fear of borderlessness.”
Hume explores her daughter’s fear of wind most by providing real-world reasons to fear wind. This is where the science-based found material shows itself, but doesn’t slow the intimate language. Its focus remains on the human relation to wind, to fear, and to our immediate and total environments. This fear of borderlessness is one of leaving the womb, the crib, the bedroom; it seems to be a fear of the vast real-worldness of life as one grows up, and of the actual horrors borne of wind and space, such as carrying the sick remnants of nuclear fallout, or the empty space that has replaced the Word Trade Center towers.
This chapbook is as beautifully crafted as it is thought-provoking. To pick just one of the many standout lines: “Make a wish on a turbine. Dream of being weightless. Ask the sky to suspend you.” Here we’re asked to form a romantic and intimate relationship with the sky, the wind, its dream-like powers. Here again is that blurring between it all, as wind permeates nearly all things, so that even “cattails interpret the language of the wind (not the wind), which gets itself into the clock.”
Susquehanna, G.C. Waldrep (Omnidawn 2013)
G.C. Waldrep’s Susquehanna surveys the dissonant chord of humanity as it intersects with the flow of the titled river. Waldrep drives us to search outside of semantic constructs, looking towards nature to provide us with an unmediated taste of meaning:
low chant, the slurry dam’s
mangle in spawnlight
doweled into the actual
but not in any usual way)
Industry is the impostor, yet its presence is displaced; it can only replicate the inherent, immovable truths of nature. The resulting antagonism remains fairly passive, even at its most violent. There is a world within Susquehanna that remains unreachable by human methods.
nothing you see here
is ghost but Man
& leather catheter
polishes a slow gun
It is only appropriate that the narrative of Susquehanna remains buried; the displacement of humanity within nature is an affliction, one that feels palpable even as it is veiled in an opacity of its own creation. Waldrep’s collection asks us to examine our status as outsiders against a river that we have attempted to destroy, as he buries and reshapes language along its banks.