In her book Babette, Sara Deniz Akant’s poem “the meadow” begins,  “I dreamed the dream, I do / remember. was being violent to a meadow.” Akant might be musing on Robert Duncan’s lines: “Often I am permitted to return to a meadow / as if it were a scene made up by the mind.” Akant’s meadow, too, is a topos of origins, promises, and even foreboding, which she stirs and folds with reckless grace. Beckoned by entryways and pausing in rooms, gardens, mansions, and terraces, the figures of these poems (who may be questers, ghosts, or avatars) skid along a terra infirma and find “that stepping will be stepped into / once and again.” In the process of discovering a new order, they confront the substance of language—how it seethes and shimmers in its own laboratory.

With a vision quest underway, do we decipher the maps and messages? Akant’s rhapsodic and broken syntax pops with runic marks and samples of—what sound like—foreign tongues; these poems estrange while conveying resemblances with rhythms and sounds. They keen like starry laments with sonic traces of ballad:

 

the domus that the tall man sees

is no more domus, serial, dome

of serial blue with dashing steeds

the dome that weeps roshie, roshel—   

                                                                       (“domus”)

   

Then directives from a high tech era straight-arm Akant’s celestial music:

 

   - - -  must certify the wind.

you must unload and spray the maximum

shelter-troat-D-babe.

                                                             (“umbra  :—“)

 

She carries on, pilgrimaging dutifully with hymnal in hand. Only, who is she? This fluid Babette? She’s like someone who finds herself in a cosmopolitan city and hears the flood wash of the linguistic world—multiple and unstable. Akant’s work calls to mind poets Cathy Park Hong and Julian Talamantez Brolaski who have included dialects and archaisms in recent books. Holding fast to familiar poetic rhythms, she jingles and charms her way through, uttering malapropisms, neo-logisms, and secret spells of tribes. Along her reeling, restless journey, she asks if a destination for the self is even possible with her incantatory assertions:

return to the same flesh draped over

three frames –same boxes of ice

(what happens in here does not happen 

outside)—return to I want

the infection.  but it is she is her rabbit

(in its very fine habit) –- the one 

who is left here and the one who 

is doing it—       —it—       she does it softly.

 

she returns to these same questions :

the pickets, the pilots, the all compass 

pranced. I will not name them.

I will not name them.  I will 

wait for my (very fine)

form. I scream. I embrace her.

I won’t say where. 

                                                        (“pickets and pilots”)

 

Open to the idea of a fluid self, she doesn’t mind the uncertainty, the clandestine nature of the plan. One that may even disintegrate in favor of the collective or a larger cause. She might give way under the empire (or prophet) of machine and technology, as suggested in the diction of this brief scene:

 

        —Tolac approached the screen—the screen

approached Tolac—if ovatron

is capable of passing through 

Cora – ovitems are capable 

Of generating thought –

                                                                        (“tolac (0)”)

 

Then again, she veers toward comforting rhythmic pheromones in lulling child-like chants: “tide her gentle now gentle now tide / of all castles. tide her castle / to all the dead moats. / / the tide of which she’ll never tell (“dalst”). The lexicon seems drawn from a medieval adventure illustration, similar to moments in Barbara Guest’s poems. Akant’s confidence persists as she utters ghost echoes of the past by re-vamping words: “dente” sounds like Dante, “Hal’Dahal” sounds like the Sanskrit word halahala (a name of a poison in Hindu mythology) or like Valhalla from Norse legend, and “gamaads” sounds like gammadion, aka a swastika. 

Permission to re-create is allowed; after all, it’s “her mind, her glyph, her door.” In the broadcasted world she holds the pieces of her disintegrating self performing in her meadow, her open field of dream. This book is a tribute to a self and subjectivity that can slip into mythological, ecological, or machine realms, and the arrival there is not without some ordeal:

 

                       I struggle with this force sometime—

      look down into the water. I saw

      a sort of garden. I saw the Hal’Dahal.

                      —you saw the Hal’Dahal

                                                                              (“tolac (1)”)

 

Akant is perpetually on the brink of a new sociability, and with vagaries of desire, she chants it into being.

 

—Molly Bendall

 
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