087) Rift Zone by Tess Taylor, finished November 13
if you came to hear me speak at LDSPMA. Although she's written quite a lot about being from this here town, she hasn't really embraced her smalltown East Bay heritage in a collection of poetry until now, with collection number three(1)(2), which is entirely about addressing that heritage, including all the awful stuff. (And although this collection is wise and clever and nuanced, it does contain a pretty high percentage of awful stuff---racism, pollution, and other top hits of American ugliness.)
Visually, the poetry in this book engages deeply with ugliness or, more deliberately, with earthquakes. The geology of California is famously fractured and the book's epigraphs largely describe rocks and faults. But many of the poems are also fractured, bits of lines spread across the page.
Given my personal poetic preferences, it will surprise no one that these poems are not my favorites. (I recognize the irony that my latest published work looks much the same.) I get that Tess is exploring how far form ("form") can be pushed without breaking, but she's so good when she's focused more on content. Or so say I, anyway.
(Although I should mention that, when she chooses to go lyrical, she's quite good at it and has lovely restraint.)
The parts of the collection I think I am most likely to share with students are autobiographical. Or, presumably autobiographical. The poet is under no obligation to be lower-case-t truthful, and some of the "autobiography" doesn't seem to be possible (that is, the calendar does not allow one to be that age in year x and this age in year y).
Immaterial and not a complaint.
I could write about individual poems I liked, but I think instead I want to talk about the envoi.
It begins with an epigraph about San Francisco being built upon old ships and docks, then begins to list some of those old things the Bay is built upon: "floating opium dens next to floating prisons" ... "Whose white settlers funded their own microgenocides" (21, 23). And so forth. but key is the final line:
As much as of anywhere I am of you.It's a lovely and appropriate conlcusion to a book that is about just that: embracing the where and what and when and whom and (etc) "I am of."
available to purchase april twentytwentyabout exactly a month