Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Who Opens/ Suggestions at Every Turn

This is a postcard by Eléna Rivera and Norma Cole, postmarked 1995, not Suggestions At Every Turn, which is an elegant chapbook with a thick paper cover, as are all Seeing Eye chapbooks, designed and published by Guy Bennett. But something of the whimsy of the card obtains in these meditations, something a bit lighter than air.

This series of one-page poems seem to open out onto the universe or maybe it's New York. There is a sense of stasis (“There was no room”) and yet movement (“Opened at the start”). There is just a trace of New York school tone along with a plainness of address:

“Now I am sitting
by the window
looking down”

“In the night wheels go round
The square of time in neon”

There is a light touch as with a watercolor that feels almost insubstantial but then you come back to it. Reading the book seems to produce the state of reverie to which it refers. It is a nice feedback loop.

“O sky. O wind. O rain.
Give me a cigarette.”

Jesse Seldess’ new book Who Opens from Kenning Editions has a similar but different effect of concentrated energy, as if a villanelle had turned into a tornado made of light.

“Who you have continually overheard” is a line that appears and reappears in various permutations, as do others.

“As what you headed toward you

Saturated unvocalized light”

You find you are cross-examining yourself as to where you were and what you were thinking when you last read that line. Then you are brought back to light or the idea of light or the word “light.” And the word material.

“Breathing heavy

You worn material”


Is you material”

So there is a minimal approach to who this reader is and what her materials might be. There are permutations. And there is this light.

If I ask myself, for the sake of the argument possibly being made in this blog, how or if these are a tonalist, I would say that the attention to sound is one aspect of what I think of as a tonalist. The dissonance is organized. The tone is intimate and yet impersonal. The work is lyric without being centered around an emotion or little story. Speech is suggested but is only one of a number of textures. Elena’s work is more narrative. Jesse’s work has a fractal feeling compared, in Kerri Sonnenberg's blurb, to a flock of birds (that comment might constitute the only metaphor in (on) the book).

Once you read it you want to read it again.

"Emit matter to converse" the last line, sends you back to the opening line,

"Who you have continually overheard"

and, in turn, to the epigraph, from The Talmud:

"Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is granted."


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