Terza rima generates thoughts of Dante, formality, technicality, and the arcane. But to look at these poems as formal exercises would be to not read these poems. The poems start with form: “Figure one. The spiral. The one figure / Smithson built” and witness form take on its own energy “Wherein she flies in spiral from tree to ground”. As with Robert Smithson’s spiral
, these poems use formal structure to suck the reader into a whirlpool, spinning a poetics of eternal motion toward a depthless center. Spiraling is also the origin of these poems, a process of being passed back and forth between the two authors, growing into its complete form. The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming limited edition chapbook Canto
If you look at the back cover of Nervous Systems
debut collection and 2006 National Poetry Series winner—August Kleinzahler, the contest's judge, describes the poetry as: "Jittery, synaptic, wide-ranging—wildly ranging..." Odd terms to describe the sublime of any contemporary poetry, but after reading this collection, there is no argument here. Those of us in Los Angeles may have been (often numerous times) to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It is a good place for anybody, but a wonderful place for a poet. Stobb's work continually reminds me of the atmosphere of that place, where wonder and technology braid into a kind of helix, venturing towards the hazy and liminal space between possibility and impossibility.
I have never been quite sure what ‘epistemological’ means, and even after a short foray in search of a definition on the internet, now I think I am less sure. But the word comes to mind when reading Jennifer Sweeney’s
poems, “Preface” and “Old Town Square.” The poet’s work questions the limits of knowing, yet somehow seems so sure of those limits. Sweeney’s work forces the conditional to become concrete, but only for a moment, until that concrete again dissolves into the sea, undulations, threads, and strings. Imagine holding a cinderblock, if every piece of sand and glass were visible and it weighed almost nothing.
The formal collisions that define Tom Clark’s
work leave us, as Murray in White Noise
would claim of car accidents, yearning for naiveté. The loquacious talking around of topics both impossible to ignore and to articulate, the juxtaposition of tones both earnest and humorous, the mixture of long and short sentences—these are all strategies that aim to stage a certain anxiety of awareness, the knowledge that words, sentences, and plots are as much an obstacle to meaning as lies, propaganda, and false memories.