Monday, April 05, 2010

Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Selenography

white letters arrived in
the city of hollowed-out
furnaces dropped through a

cut transom

the twins

took the letters
with the biggest swooping signatures
into the trees

assemble the story
of their fortress you’re

soft with me
& I’m never
sorry for falling
asleep on top

of you (“no clumsy moon to chalk up the doorway”)

Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s work in his previous three poetry collections—Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned Rooms (Portland OR: Pinball Publishing, 2005), lug your careless body out of the careful dusk (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2006) and the collaborative Figures for a Darkroom Voice (with Noah Eli Gordon, Tarpaulin Sky Press)—engaged with the extended/serial poem, marking moment by moment in fragments of graceful lyric that hang together beautifully. In his Selenography (San Francisco CA: Sidebrow Books, 2010), it’s as though those moments have become more abstract, more condensed, stretching a stanza into the length and breadth of a single poem-section, and short, clipped lines (reminiscent of the poems of Rae Armantrout) that highlight those moments.

the radio yellowing

our adages asks
us to steady to steal without (“no clumsy moon to chalk up the doorway”)

Selenography is constructed out of five poem-sections, with each text on the left page, and each facing page a Polaroid by photographer Tim Rutili. Part of the appeal is how all the photographs carry a sheen of age, whether through looking back at 1970s photos, images of old books and building interiors, or the pictures themselves beginning to wear over time. But what is it these poems contain, where is it these poems are taking us, one blending into another? This is Wilkinson, digging in, line by line, an exploration and even a vocation through his Selenography, digging on deeper in through the ties that still bind, between one body and the next. Is it ever so simple as that?

carry your
own dancing shoes

your tin suitcase filled
with bricks & wolf dust

you are coming
through the phone wires
& ice at once

hunter in the chimney of

your throat

birds caught in
blocks of ice (“wolf dust”)

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