Poems from PN Review, etc. Here's the start of "Avalanche"
When the avalanche came down on us|
it did not come down on us in a holy light,
flickering between this dimension and another
ultraviolet one. It did not shower its sermon upon us
in meaning-ful, vowel-less sounds like stalactites.
It did not come down on us at all. It came up, up, over
The line-counts of the stanzas are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15, befitting the title, but I'm puzzled by while the final stanza isn't broken into 2 (7-lined and 8-lined), by the ultraviolet dimension, the hyphens, and how showering can be like stalactites. I'm also puzzled by some of the other scientific/maths usage later in the book -
- "If he could secure/ a hailstone in a wheelbarrow, with solid algebra, he could square a circle.// To square a circle! He might as well have measured the Garden/ of Eden if he could master this binomial expansion" (p.13). What's its purpose? How should maths/science literate people interpret it?
- "Okay, he told himself calmly. O.K.// K was the reproduction factor, which must equal more than one/ for a chain reaction. This was quite a bending of the spoon/ for the Italian, as there is no K in his mother tongue. Only Chi. Che./ Who. What. How much would be critical" (p.18)
"This is What Makes It go Bang" is mostly a re-write of "The Naming of Parts". "Rational Dress" has a lot of words, e.g. "Pierre left his crystals behind to assist/his weighing out and grinding of pitchblende and chalcolie/ with a pestle and mortar - unaware that the diamond they sought// was not a diamond but a needle, which could not be found/ in 100 grammes of haystack but in tons of ore" and "Her papers, cookbooks, cycling apparel, wedding dress/ are stored in lead-lined boxes. To consult them, one must wear/ protective clothing". The status of females, especially in science settings is dealt with, though a little article might have been preferable.
Passages like these from "Bruisewort" lessen my trust in the writer -
- "To discover the atom is a start - to know what it means; its particle trinity/ that has oceans cleaving to the tilted earth resisting the moon's recurrent invite;/ miraculous photosynthesis, which is bodiless, yet we grope about for its photon torso"
- "With a fast enough machine, we could decode the daisy chain in calculus, Objective-C,/ transcendental equations. Would the parts of its sum be atoms or litanies?"
There are some forms - "We are experiencing delay" is a villanelle, "God Always Geometrises" has an
abba rhyme scheme, and there are haikus.
"Atmospheric Physicist vs Poetic Atmosphericist" isn't worth it. I'm unconvinced by "Lucky" - how "Lucky" is repeated; how "conjunctivitis", "detach", eyelid" create a gratuitous thread. Towards the end of the book there are many poems I don't get - "Dublin Can Be Heaven", "Hames of a Haiku", "Altitude", "Watershed", etc pass me by. There's nothing trite however. The end of the final poem provides a sample -
We will not be put to work or put down or put out of our homes.|
His pace quickens. The sharp inhale of breath: Enough. Was it?
Or: Enough's enough? I stay a foot behind. I time my step
to catch the sentence if it fails; to be in his shadow, if that's the safer place.
"Catechism", "Looting Roses", maybe, and "The Shell Man" are good. "Somatic Cells" uses Scrabble - I'd like the poem had I not written similar ones. I like "Two Roundlets" too, and "The Transit of Venus" which is in rhyming couplets.
Overall, I found much to interest and challenge me.