Introduction to Poetics
If I were to choose an image that the poems in this folio collectively invoke for me, it might be something like this:
…There were hedgehogs
milk out of saucers
like dark stars
at the moon.
These lines are from Lucy Anderton’s “O Memory. How I Choose You” and they delightfully bring together the strange, the cosmic, the ordinary, the animal world, and the human world. The universe is vast in these lines, and it is lonely, and it is beautiful.
The poems in this folio are grand. By that I mean not that they are ostentatious, but that they are marvelous. And they are so because they unabashedly tackle—or slyly slip sideways into—eternal and majestic poetic obsessions: death, loss, dreams, memory, change, time, language, nature, sex, and the body. These poems look outward, engage with the world—and they pull inward, testing the skein of language against multiplicities of experience.
Death and loss loom large in this folio. Leonore Hildebrandt’s “The Next Unknown,” a quiet love poem for a dying companion is all the more heartbreaking for its understated tone. Brandon Lussier’s poems also wrestle with the illness and death of a loved one; in them, grief is honed, distilled to single words and the spaces between them: “Cancer, dusk, estuary, / knife, prayer, mouth— / cage, face, / face—”
James Berger meditates on dying and its progression (“Nothing so direct as death? / But dying— / There’s a meander.”) And if Sridala Swami’s absinthe drinker finds stasis a worse fate than death, Tomaz Salamun offers an alternative way to think about how things goes on: “The continuation is a paper / wounded with a pin, / spurting your lost bid for life.”
And so—how could we not, with the /Slant/Sex/ folio quivering so vibrantly next to us—we come to poems that lean into the body, into the sexual self. Sally Wen Mao’s “The Bullies” places us into the thick of adolescent tumult (“When young girls/ disrobed together in a locker room, rancor / smelled like petunias”) and Kate Durbin’s “FASHIONWHORE OUTAKES” offers deadpan descriptions of the fashion world’s versions of womanhood: “sexy and domineering,” “the ultimate seductress,” and of course always nude. The sacred and the profane collide in “Novena” where Jacques J. Rancourt re-imagines the Virgin Mary as queerness embodied, variously gendered and very sexy/sexual.
Like “dark stars / at the moon,” each poem here has its own gravity, its own light. Their source is language: all the ways it bends and shines.