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Ali Blythe

ice­house po­etry

There Are No Solid Gold Dancers Any­more

Adri­enne Weiss


Frayed Opus for Strings and Wind In­stru­ments

Ul­rikka Gernes (trans­lated into English by Pa­trick Friesen and Per Brask)

Brick Books

Ali Blythe’s de­but col­lec­tion, Two­ism, is in­tel­li­gent and charm­ing, jan­gly and jar­ring, moody, dreamy and a lit­tle bit deadly. Take, for in­stance, the at­mo­spheric piece that closes the book, called “Mise-en-scène:” “In Luc Bes­son’s best movie/ ev­ery­thing wears the big blue/ lens of sad­ness as­so­ci­ated/ with never get­ting to go// to the beau­ti­ful des­ti­na­tion/ you ev­ery day buy a ticket for./ Our reg­u­lar fea­ture in­volves/ two chairs and oc­ca­sional// drift­ing eye con­tact…. Nei­ther in this scene// though we might feel like it/ is the long rope to the ocean/ floor the two friends dive down/ to see who can last long­est// with­out oxy­gen. Fi­nally/ the win­ner real­izes no rope/ is ever long enough.One friend/ re­turns to the sur­face to die.// The other never resur­faces./ The au­di­ence is left to won­der.”

This bor­der­line-ver­tig­i­nous tone is both cap­ti­vat­ing and unset­tling. Per­spec­tive is elu­sive, shift­ing like eyes look­ing for a home or a ghost look­ing for a body—or re­sist­ing a body (and la­bels), de­clin­ing nouns in ser­vice to a mys­tic de­cliv­ity, the rov­ing pull of eros: “com­ing down,” as the poet calls it in one piece. Po­ems take on var­i­ous points of view, from an­i­mal (as in the “Fox” and “Owl” pieces), to cam­era-eye-like, to sort of pan­the­is­tic, for lack of a bet­ter de­scrip­tion.In “Ev­ery­thing Mov­ing with­out Me Mov­ing,” Blythe writes, “Night is a diesel tongue/ lick­ing salt from the air.// Stars try for a steady­ing thought./ You re­lo­cate me// to the docks and use ropes./ No hope of any­thing get­ting through….”

Two­ism is an in­tense “I” and “you” af­fair about the re­la­tional as­pects of our psy­ches, in­clud­ing how we dis­tance our­selves from what we dread, how we hold some­thing close and all the am­biva­lence in be­tween. Is it love? Let’s say the re­la­tion­ship is a tad dys­func­tional. “Good morn­ing, my unattrac­tive/ ten­dency, I’ve made cof­fee./ I guess I’ll rouse you like a nail// then ham­mer you back in,” writes Blythe in “Good Morn­ing You’re Awake.” It’s divine com­edy at its black­est.

Tack­ling dif­fer­ent kinds of myths is Adri­enne Weiss’s in­sight­ful There Are No Solid Gold Dancers Any­more. Here the tin man’s search for a heart takes on an amus­ing taint due to his re­quire­ment (or com­pul­sion) to per­form his story. After all, he’s in show busi­ness: “For most of us in this busi­ness,/ want­ing the au­di­ence’s heart is ev­ery­thing./ But I’ve learned that ex­pect­ing to al­ways/ have it is an­other thing. These days, the heart’s/ in the talkies; and cur­rently, I’m on loan to/ MGM from Fox, have in­her­ited Buddy/ Eb­sen’s blis­ter­ing sil­ver body, its ab­sent heart— … I may/ be sec­ond ba­nana to Eb­sen, but it’s work,/ and the money’s good.”

The ti­tle poem of this sparkling sec­ond col­lec­tion is a poignant, bristling, hu­mor­ous stew of what it means to be alive at the end of one’s tether, want­ing out, mak­ing un­cer­tain plans un­der one’s breath. Walk­ing down the street, the poet muses, “I walk and think, how well we’ve put tech­nol­ogy to work, Thank God that in the end, tech­nol­ogy will save us, make us all the god­damn same./ All I need is one late-night glass of habit and I’ll be through, in just one year I’ll be through sweat­ing red wine from my armpits, all my tense pores. Just one year, that’s all it’ll take and then I’ll be through with this street, this town./ Red light.No cars com­ing, so who cares, I’m fuck­ing walk­ing, I’m like a hobo here any­ways.”

On a sweeter note, Dan­ish poet Ul­rikka Gernes’s as­sured Frayed Opus for Strings and Wind In­stru­ments car­ries an earthy, slightly di­lap­i­dated mu­sic to haunt­ing con­clu­sions. This gor­geous col­lec­tion sings as “the choir of rain [in which] ev­ery drop sings.” As she notes in her af­ter­word, “I write po­etry for roughly the same rea­son that I do­nate blood. I want to give some­thing of my­self back to life…. Blood is anony­mous; let­ters of the al­pha­bet are, too. I hope my po­ems are, as well; that is, I hope they are open forms that the reader can find some of his or her own life in, that she or he can set­tle into them and not feel like a stranger, but like some­one long awaited, wel­comed and rec­og­nized.”

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