Following the transcendent, abstractionist poems of Nomina, this collection returns to tangible experiences of the body—its range of expressivity and physical movement in space. Where is the body in travel? What space does it occupy in dreams and memory? With rich perplexity, Whereso responds to dance, performance, and position in time—translating flight of the body into language and line.
What I’ve come to discuss is mostly about shadows
and the airs left behind in caring, discarding,
the long inhibitions of whereso and when.
Alabaster, a dark quire, in its many pages and premises
the maze, from which move
tendrilled purples and contusions, magnificent
fuchsia receivers of false content,
the splayed flower, arterial, like the premise of a door
is where it leads to or from. Communication
of vessel, vial, capsule, hull, a tiniest nil
fires the neurons from their swooning still,
is not a healing but adaptation to same
a quickening in deleting of sensation
a prior sizing. Stacked leaves (green shadows)
are givens in the columned garden, what work is needed
to determine that shape? Some hysteric
trope of repetition, rage for accretion,
dazed by its own mute replication,
like the minute lines of a hand. They are
its cries (writes Ponge, among others),
the tongue inseparable from its utterance (langue).
We weep to hear it, a language forgot.
I was saying I keep speaking
from some chamber sound deleted, which is why
I never call or write. In that theatre are my eclipses
and moons refracted in pinholes and wheels
wherein revolve astonished birds, and the Queen of Night
sleeps a rest restorative and profitable, and
andante allegro, the dead ships never sail.
“Karen Volkman’s poems are inscrutable at first. They demand effort, but when examined these poems reveal depths teeming with microscopic life. After her previous two books, Spar, a seminal collection of love poems in prose, and Nomina, a sequence of nonsense sonnets, Volkman has relaxed mostly into free verse in which she can describe ‘false content, / the splayed flower, arterial, like the premise of a door,’ and other vagaries of the heart. She may be elliptical and strange, but make no mistake, she is a master, able to get inside the mind of a dancer’s body . . . and transport the willing reader into the deepest folds of true attention.”—NPR Books
“In her previous collection, Spar, Volkman stripped away the formal conventions of lineated verse (as well as overtly stated subject matter) to explore what a poem could say in prose, using rhythm, sound and tone as her principal tools of meaning-making. In this third collection, a sequence of 50 untitled, rhymed sonnets, she takes her interrogation of the poem as formal machine a step further, using English poetry’s most famous form as her guide. Like her prose poems, these sonnets are concerned with love and some notion of a higher, or other, power, or at least with the capacity of language to bridge the gap between addressor and addressee, seeking a nascent book in which the wind has written. Channeling Emily Dickinson, the poems are at once fierce, ravished, perplexed and perplexing . . . gesturing toward sense, never quite making it, yet mysteriously giving and withholding enough to keep the reader in their thrall.”—Publishers Weekly
“There is no question that these are athletic poems; they open their fullest flower to those with a strong vocabulary . . . This abstract web of multiple meanings feels, on first reading, extremely reticent, even rarefied . . . It is extremely fine work, and finely wrought.”—Poetry International
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2016