April 18, 2007

Review: The Tides

The Tides
Octopus Books, $6

everything else is a lie

So begins Genya Turovskaya’s three-sectioned chapbook of poetic oscillation, The Tides. The title could not be more fitting. Turovskaya’s lines wash back and forth across the page, towing objects and ideas from place to place before they run aground and the cycle begins again. The lines are disjointed, divided, but they are not fractured or disconnected. Everything is held together in the precise movements between before and after:
to begin what has begun again

suddenly men appear and absolutely nothing

except that something is and becomes was...

do you approach

the battering tide

something happens
something is happening to me

something has interrupted
something else someone
turns to look
over their shoulder

there is nothing there


Turovskaya’s world is full of mythos. It is a world “removed from geography the non-event the human / silhouette impressed in an embankment of mud // land mass torn free of the continent” (“The Tides”). The Tides reads like a post-creation story where the landscape has been reconstructed with names (of trees, of animals, of things), ships, lights, clothes, buildings, and water. The scenes are at once empty and full.

Line, language, and subject have all been broken down into incremental elements that, when strung together, complete what cannot be completed. Because if we are always a part of the in-between, and if “something else” is always happening, what other choice do we have but “to begin what has begun again”? Turovskaya builds a world through division and abstraction, but she writes with a serene clarity that never loses its way. She is both creator and guide. The Tides traverses the border that runs somewhere between lost-ness and finding, and Turovskaya allows us to accompany her on her journey through this vast expanse.

by Nate Slawson

This is the fifth in a series of eight reviews on the chapbooks from Octopus Books.

April 10, 2007

Review: Goodnight Lung

Goodnight Lung
Octopus Books, $6

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function.
-- Louis Sullivan

Almost all of the poems in Amadon’s chapbook are written in either couplets or tercets, and the form gives the content the space to proceed, to turn, and to try again and again to pin down what has happened or what will happen. In fact, many of the poems orbit around this idea of happening:
No one lets
my grandfather sand the ice, Kansas

isn’t very different from Belgium
& we each have a scaffold that wants

nothing to do with touching. Touch
yours to mine, we see what happens.

(“Last Giddy to Hospital Bed”)


Without an unmanageable
mistake, the day doesn’t


(“Uncomfortable Hand”)


We might see to the arrangement of a light
for an emotion which would strike a figure

of a person with a mind for what exactly
has happened to all the tea...

(“Frivolity With Lamps”)

But happening in these poems isn’t limited to the explicit use that word. The poems are pensive, unsure of “how to investigate / our loss.” The voice here is one of hesitancy, a voice that is seemingly uncomfortable in a place where “same will always into same.” For Amadon, the tension lies somewhere between the act of remembering and the act of doing.

The form, with its severe enjambment across couplets or tercets, enhances the tension of each poem’s overflow of ideas. The world is constantly moving, but it is a “world / that moves without attention.” The poems attempt to focus their attention, but the locus is typically unobtainable or elusive.

The repetition of happenings that twine throughout this collection reaches a crescendo in the poem “Declare! Declare!” This poem, as Amadon states in his notes, “is composed of words taken entirely from the eleven formal U.S. declarations of war, with one additional word per line from the Shaker song: ‘’Tis a Gift to be Simple.’” Truly, this must be where “same will always into same.”

The poems read as interior monologues, conversing only with themselves. Questions are asked (“Heard nothing?” “Act ourselves?” “How do we find a thing which / isn’t concerned enough with us to hide?”), but rarely are they answered. Amadon’s conversations unfurl in precise abstraction, and the only clear answer is that the poems themselves are what’s happening again and again.

by Nate Slawson

This is the fourth in a series of eight reviews on the chapbooks from Octopus Books.

April 2, 2007

Review: The Ohio System

The Ohio System

Octopus Books, $6

“It’s the Ohio system of ending things with a pause or hold for safety.”

Tynes and Howsare’s collaboration is a synesthetic thicket of body and landscape. Muscles become caves, brains resemble trees, feet are thorns, and clavicles bloom. At times, ideas and images fold over and into one another:

The bargain of the century is the bones of the face.


You tell me whatever you know. A word that means both storm and sadness, where we could have lived but didn’t, the difference between one mile and another.


The manufacturer is a city and a fairy, claiming no loss, only kilowatts. Numbers turning. Bifurcated geography pits tongues against necks.

Throughout this chapbook-length poem, metaphor pushes against metaphor and objects continually reappear. Perhaps the most persistent metaphor, though, is that of branching or splitting. There are roots, veins, maps, trains, and a delta. On one hand, they are paths that constantly divide into other paths or tributaries, but if viewed from another angle, they also grow back into themselves to form something singular and whole.

The physical landscape—when one exists—is rural (“Some of it is so rural it rots.” ). The poem is full of fairgrounds, small towns, horses, barns, fields, blackberries, and villagers. It is a place where the “innermost country is made out of hark,” where nothing seems able to exist independently. The persistent emergence of objects out of other objects fills up the landscape.

Each line or sentence in the poem is at once a start and a stop, a “system of ending things with a pause or hold” before things begin again. The effect is one of call and half-answer. Statements don’t typically respond to or answer one another, but they all fit within or grow out of the same “system.” The poem itself functions like a map, and each line is a glyph marking the topography. With The Ohio System, Tynes and Howsare have collaborated on something that’s both mysterious and enlightening: a document of divergence and unification.

by Nate Slawson

This is the third in a series of eight reviews on the chapbooks from Octopus Books.