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March 4, 2021 / barton smock

recent reflections etc

some recent reflections at isacoustic.com:

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through a small ghost
poems, Chelsea Dingman
The University of Georgia Press, 2020

Chelsea Dingman is a poet who makes you feel as if you’ve entered the dream a little early. Otherness is something that happens to others, and pain hurts in two places at once. In through a small ghost, it is this meditative displacement that allows the work to both worship and curse the prolonged destiny of its sudden and devastating inheritance. Be it a projected disappearance or a vanishing root, Dingman identifies first the caller of the form that keeps us from so many shapes, and then the unreal form itself. As any breathing in this held verse might poke a hole in the haunting and send a smoke ring to show the fog how its wheels have come off, the poems keep their witness on the made from and made by, achieving not only something to be seen, but also something protected from watching. And in this protection are many spiritually assertive mercies, elegant and ruinous, gifts from reversal of which the most healing might be that when a thing goes, loss doesn’t always get there first.

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Toxicon And Arachne
poems, Joyelle McSweeney
Nightboat Books, 2020

Of course, being a weak writer, I want to say rare. I want to say rare in as few words as possible in the direction of Joyelle McSweeney’s Toxicon And Arachne. Somewhere two toothaches are perhaps reunited. Somewhere one is unpinned from the world while feeling in the dark for a donkey born without a tail. I also want to say playful, but no. Sadness loses all its money to sorrow and there is a jovial genius to the trauma of wordplay. I think what McSweeney does is done with what I’ll call, in my lack, the endangered available. Mouth of a gift hearse. Erasure’s only prediction. From such given, McSweeney recreates addendum without precedent. Think of what one hasn’t read, that is being written, and how briefly it will exist unwitnessed. And how fast the work of de-witness. And how suddenly we’re having the dream that just recently we lied about having. I love this work for its slowness, for the uninfluenced offhand of its disruptive healing. Here is a line from McSweeney’s poem PT Cruiser: ‘That’s like, harmonic. Monstrous.’ I am injected, I guess, to vaccinate the new you. Loss has two syllables: loss, comma, loss. The verse of Toxicon and Arachne lives in the present and in the present it took.

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Ribald
essays – Alina Stefanescu
INCH, issue 44
Bull City Press (2020)

The writer Alina Stefanescu is a student of curious worry, loyal to irreverence and a giver of passage and path. These essays, on sight, put one in the middle of understanding, where one knows perhaps how to read, but not yet how to re-read. As a child, I heard of a child who stopped playing hide-and-seek because they would forget to hide. I heard this from a child distracted by god. None of this is true, but it could be. Ribald is a work that continues to begin, that opens the body might it out what’s been baked into, that offers the unexpected as a cure to prophecy, that misplaces to protect.

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