(University of California Press, 2012) 

 

The bees of this book seem ever present, and a reader alternates between trying to read their appearance/sonority as constituting some sort of code, and simply (as happens in the world outside when bees seem ever present) succumbing to the sound. There is brilliance in this balance between expectation and delay, and the effects of such manipulated withholding shimmer, too, among other things of the sky: “The sky is clean because it ’ s been scraped by / the pigeons— When you blink again you’re going down / fast” (14). The sky itself is shockingly present at all points of the globe, whether Italy or New Mexico or where the reader happens to be. The bees and the sky and the body are the elements from which this book makes itself a resonating instrument. But “resonance” is inadequate to describe the activity of the poetic instrumentation of such a performance of language. “Violence of Feathers,” a small, early poem, contains the word “splanchnic,” which probably resonates with few readers. It feels disturbing to the mouth, splashy and not so much resonant as repugnant. It appears this way: 

                             

 

                              Rapid   &    splanchnic     you feel    clean    because  you’ve   been   cut                        

                        with the pigeons ’ feet ,    feel                        

                        clear because you   know    that    your    face   will   keep                        

                        peeling 

                       

                               down to the wettest ,    most serious                        

                        things —

 

 

In this era of the internet readers will quickly discover the meaning of an unusual word—relating to the internal organs, viscera, in this case—and the vibrations of this new knowledge become part of the poem. In a curious sonnet we move from the feathers, the outer edge, the boundary, down into the thingness, the thing itself, which turns out to be a place bloody and hidden. Splanchnic. As if one is looking into a fine-grained kaleidoscope which returns the occasional real-time scene, and often one’s own face staring through the fragments, the experience of reading ’Annah Sobelman pushes one out into the world. I happen to be aware even as I write these words that near me, in my own country, forests are burning as an accident of time and space; and I read: “as if Greek islands didn’t exist—then forest fires roaring closer as they do” (57). The poetics of this book are astonishingly malleable, and each rereading reveals more of the world outside the poems—and at the same time draws one more firmly, deeply into the sheer poetics, the linguistics, the technical thereness of the language. The hereness. Hear how the lines break and reform in a poem such as “Concerning the Ode to a Focus Then a Free Fall”— 

     

            — Or if the

                 wind   in   the   air   did   graze

 

                  a particular   gesture  to  which  I  say  belongs , was  it   only

           the  air  and  its  wind  with  bees  in  it    which  gave  the  moment  its

           ‘ eternity ’ ?  So  near   me   the

 

                  bees   are   landing ( which  my  last  daisies  are

            still  extending  their   sum-

 

            mer upon ) 

 

It is not the tedious idea of “line breaks” I am referring to, it is how the lines disintegrate and reform, like the inhaling and exhaling of the reader, little communities of particles (“a particular gesture”) which keep her alive, going forth and returning, an offering (daisies are still extending) and accepting (bees are landing). And consider again the “wind in the air.” Is wind IN the air, is con- tainer contained? The particles of air include the bees and the daisies and the words, which form and decay and reform, like a life, such as that of the poet, the poet’s father, the reader. The pursuit of a life, of life itself—the attempt to live, even under duress—is the great desire beneath the surface of every poem. In fact, on the surface as well: “we’re joining the living / their right to use / magnetized credit cards.” You will encounter the particles of world and language here like wind, tiny bits that push and pursue and you will be alive. 

                                                                                                                              

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