Sunday, December 30, 2018

Stephanie Anderson, If You Love Error So Love Zero

It is a facsimile. It is facial angle:

European woman. It is stomach

simple, similar to a box. It is on

either side of inside. It is grapple.

It is extracted from lignite and peat.

It is worn by women. It is whether

with gloves, a moveable roof.

It is concerned with whalebone.

It is a writing material made of strips

of parachute. It is myth, cat,

machine. It is a cloth conclusion, of

silt formerly. It is this, thin, azure. (“To Yield a Body”)

American poet, editor and publisher (currently studying in Beijing) Stephanie Anderson’s latest is the full-length If You Love Error So Love Zero (New Orleans LA: Trembling Pillow, 2018), a collection of short poem sequence-sections that accumulate into a book-length exploration on form, procedures, syntax and meaning. The author of In the Key of Those Who Can No Longer Organize Their Environments (2013) and Land of Yield (2017)—both from Horse Less Press—as well as a small handful of chapbooks, Anderson’s If You Love Error So Love Zero streaks and strikes through subjectivity, as she writes to open the poem “Ratiocination”:

Sometimes I bitch out the eldest streak.
I tell it: you are not representative.
Sometimes glass in hand. I tell her:

here’s where you can put that bird-
seed. She is the daintiest thing under

The collection opens with “To Yield a Body” to a cluster of poems—“Flight Path,” “Points of Vulnerability,” “Ratiocination,” “Flight Path” and “Mist Nets”—to “LIGHTBOX: a mobile memoir of atmospheres” to a further cluster of poems—“Flight Path,” “Storm, Secondary,” “Flight Path,” “Remembering in Third Person,” “Flight Path” and “Coda with Cranes.” Her multiple “Flight Path” poems are composed with curious frameworks, as she writes in her “Notes” at the end of the collection:

In the fourth “Flight Path,” the phrases in grey are taken from the list of 1,000 “Fry Words,” the most common words in the English language ranked by frequency of use. Each phrase’s words (provided the phrase is unbroken by punctuation) appear in the order in which the words occur in the list.

The effects of her poems really do feel as though she is pulling apart and reassembling language, allowing the collisions and the accumulations to do something far larger than the mere collection of assorted words and phrases. Her poems extend to incredible lengths, pulling threads upon threads to see where they might end. To create the world, one might say, you must first completely dismantle it, and Anderson has, working entirely down to zero for the sake of starting once again, and starting fresh. As she writes as part of the second “Flight Path”: “So what if we produce we can’t consume: / we made the ship to turn about. Now we / calibrate the day. Love, always stand // before me. Both my cheeks are stained. / When you dance, it still dizzies me. / The sun tempers its locks.”

Choose a narrative: the sky had come
overdark. I had come craven and crag.

                                    Find west, where dust
                                    billows to meet bread.

I’m here for the Code R, hoping
not to have use of the stuffed animal.
Soil separated, littered with fastened rocks.

I’m from the agency, I announce
to the rocks. I don’t remember.

                                    It must be mirage. There is scarcely
                                    any light to draw any more. (“Flight Path”)

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