Monday, May 18, 2015

Julie Carr, Think Tank


Kettle boils, boils now
      Maligned and languishing in an upstairs room: a lacrimal dimple
      trips the obscene
Honk geese: soprano duck, duck
hobbles, belly first, a girl-falcon spins
      rebuffs the rough draft
Too long, my husband’s sweater
      Sleeve. My patience no: threads of what
warms a baby’s unrivalled calamitous
hour. Full sob

      transpires to rust the pendulous rug
      long in arms, short on time
Old devotions
now gone to
      sorrow: cap’s cracked and leaking
      door doesn’t open: exit through mirror, o
      the plumbing

Denver, Colorado poet Julie Carr’s most recent poetry book, Think Tank (New York NY: Solid Objects, 2015), is constructed out of an accumulation of stand-alone fragments that articulate how one navigates through the chaos, grief and beauty of living. Composed as a series of short sketches, the poems of Think Tank also include some three-dozen lines incorporated into her text, and a list of those lines and their source authors exists at the end of the collection: César Vallejo, John Ashbery, Inger Christensen, Erin Mouré, Lisa Robertson, Alice Notley, Eileen Myles and Stephen Ratcliffe, among others.

There is a darkness in Carr’s work I’ve seen throughout her published work, one that exists not in isolation, but as part of a much larger canvas. Carr doesn’t shy away from violence, death or other subject matter, but an element that requires acknowledgment and examination.

Tim was in the pool when another boy drowned. A very quiet
All the adults thought the others were watching. This sense they would
      not easily give away

Biting the nail that secures the hand, staring into dead time
I’m afraid to speak so full of blood, but there’s no way I’m anything

                                      sweeter or other or bland

Babies sleep hugging animals. At the doorway: endlessness

I like very much that Carr works on books as projects, as units of composition, each one existing for and as an entirely different purpose, something that doesn’t become clear until one begins to experience more than a couple of her poetry titles. Recently, Essay Press produced The Silence That Fills The Future, an online pdf publication that explores some of her current works-in-progress, including “The War Reporter: On Confession,” “By Beauty and by Fear: On Narrative Time,” “Spirit Ditties of No Tone: On Listening” and “Eight 14-Line Poems from Real Life,” each selected from a different project-in-progress. The diversity of her projects is quite striking, and the chapbook-as-‘sampler’ allows a compact glimpse into the range of her range of current projects, even before the consideration of her overall published works-to-date: a list that includes two critical studies and five poetry collections prior to Think Tank. As she says of her book-length process in a recent interview posted at Touch the Donkey: “One day perhaps I’ll write a book of discrete poems – what Spicer called one night stands. But for now, this is how my mind works.”

One to two to one to two to one to two to one

      runs regeneration’s


There, the door opens for: sun, road, behold
      five—a raw ladder of kids

Apples, potatoes, pigs, and birds. Bread, milk, sugar, and eggs:
Feed my kids. The cow feeds my kids. The truck. The flame feeds
my kids. The bag feeds my kids. Plum and butter and nut and hen:
nothing so kind as a warehouse

There is something of the critical study to her poetry books, working through a series of observations and ideas using the machinery of language to articulate a series of unspoken theses, anywhere from “how does one survive this” to “what can be done differently,” among so many others. Hers is a poetry composed as a search for meaning, through all the mess and beauty of everything and everything else. As she writes toward the end of the collection:

I want your voice in my poem, which is like I want your body in my own,
        but no milk
    All readers and non-readers desire that pouring
These experiences are absolutely unwriteable which is why I am putting
        them here
    Fruit’s nothing, the side lamp slumps
    This was not a life time spent reading clouds

Books said something, said, “God too must with me wash his body”

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