Reviews - February 2013

Reading 'Iovis' in Bolinas

A review of Anne Waldman's ‘The Iovis Trilogy’

In Bolinas, California, on a sunny late spring afternoon, four of us are sitting at a small round table set for tea. The table setting is unquestionably Joanne Kyger’s: woven bamboo mats trimmed smartly in black, small dishes of nuts, seeds, and cookies, a cheese board with a local cambozola, crackers, fruit, a small tray of spicy dried seaweed, delicate china plates and silverware tipped with arabesque, and everyone with their drink — some with chamomile tea in small jade-green cups, sparkling water in translucent blue glasses, white wine in stemware — around a centerpiece of pale purple Hydrangea and a few sprigs with tiny white flowers all fringed in broad, sphere-shaped leaves. We are passing around The Iovis Trilogy, because Joanne — who is always pulling book after book off a shelf or from a small table nearby and putting them into your hands one after the other, so that you place one book on the table to empty your hands to receive another book until the table is full of small heaps of books and in need of clearing — insists that one can not read Iovis alone, that it’s meant to be read aloud: “for it was her song, & / she always wanted to sing it / moving as she did among his waves” (213).

Devisable matter and sheer overjoy

A review of Peter Richards's 'Helsinki'

Even though I might try to define Helsinki in Peter Richards’s latest collection of the same name, I don’t think it would be all that constructive an endeavor. It is, however, important to note that location is integral in that it is a reoccurring motif as well as the gesture of the book’s title. But when I say location, I hesitate to affirm the specificity that the wordimplies; rather, the locative forces that energize Helsinki do more to strip the idea of location of its specificity, transforming the lyric into a mode that sustains placelessness, a medium through which lush imagery and skewed perspective enact a state of being instead of a particular setting.

The poetry that populates Helsinki’s five sections does not have titles, only three addition symbols at the top of each page occupying the spaces where titles might go.

Literature's nuisance: (Riding) Jackson's memoir

A review of 'The Person I Am: The Literary Memoirs of Laura (Riding) Jackson'

Rarely do authors talk back to the literary apparatus — criticism, reviews, biographies —that builds up around their work. In the two-volume collection of Laura (Riding) Jackson’s “literary memoirs,” (Riding) Jackson does just that, while also providing new insights into her theories on literature, ethics, and the topic of memoir itself. As (Riding) Jackson wrote in 1984, she faced “a stream of published erroneous representations of myself, my thought, my writings” (2:229).

A longer stay

A review of Stacy Doris's 'Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit'

Media vita in Morta Sumus (In the midst of life we are in death). — Bobulus Noctar, 10th century

As with all last words or nearly last words, we are left wanting more. For, if we have known the writer and her work, we want to hear the words spoken in her own voice. We want more words, more books, a longer stay. We are left with Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit, the book Stacy Doris finished shortly before her death in January 2012 at the age of forty-nine. The project as any — but with the additional urgency of it being her last — asks the reader the fundamental questions — what state of being/mind preoccupied Stacy Doris composing this last book?

The snapshot poem

A review of Frances Chung's 'Crazy Melon’

Photographs furnish evidence. — Susan Sontag