ominous moundpath (“: nightstand rubberplant :”)
Self-described in the acknowledgements as a “linguistic queering of intimacies,” Tucson, Arizona poet Kimberly Alidio’s latest poetry title is : once teeth bones coral : (Brooklyn NY: Belladonna*, 2020). : once teeth bones coral : is her second full-length poetry title, after after projects the resound (Black Radish Press, 2016), she also has a further title out later this year: why letter ellipses (selva oscura press, 2020). I’m curious about this idea of “linguistic queering of intimacies,” an idea she expands a bit upon as part of her recent “12 or 20 questions” interview: “I have a tongue-in-cheek aim to reclaim Language Poetry, generally held to be antithetical to the expressive, subjective, and even experimental poetics of BIPOC/ LGBTQIA+ writers, for a poetics of queer-of-color, postcolonial, cross-lingual synesthesia.” Structured in seven poem-sections—“: rock neverended :,” “: nightstand rubberplant :,” “: pours pore :,” “: okra oat egg :,” “: wave reverse :,” “: continent reverence :” and “: hand axiom:”—the lyric cycle, or lyric suite, of : once teeth bones coral : is an expansive, fractured, fragmented, open lyric, comparable in structure to what Toronto poet Margaret Christakos worked in her recent suite charger (Talonbooks, 2020) [see my review of such here].
Alidio’s lyric cycle works as both sequence and accumulation of single points, stretched across the grid of the square page, directing connections of how words can’t help but mean, and how those meanings interact. She writes of landscape across a wide field, and scope via a sequence of threads. The colons she plays with in both book title and individual poem/section titles suggest an interconnectedness, how one piece fits easily and directly into the next. This is a singular, expansive poem across a wide field: one simply has to step back far enough to be able to see the whole piece at once. As she writes to open the “: notes :” at the end of the collection:
As an effort to undo in language the normative relations of self to lover, landscape, and loss, this book opens with a poem that arranges language from Lorine Niedecker’s journal, “Lake Superior Country ’66,” published in Lake Superior (Wave, 2013). “The journey of the rock is never ended. In every tiny part of any living thing are materials that once were rock that turned to soil. These materials are drawn out of the soil by plant roots and the plant used them to build leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Plants are eaten by animals. In our blood is iron from plants that draw it out of the soil. Your teeth and bones were once coral.”