Sunday, July 17, 2022

Colleen Louise Barry, Colleen


This is a surface
I am reflected on
No surface

Am I reflected

I make so many mistakes with green beans 

This is just today

I am sitting while the wind does whatever
To the house and my banner whips around

A chained up snake in the garden
A furious human wig (“This Is a Mirror”)

Having read a recent interview with her [as well as her recent ’12 or 20 questions’ interview], I was curious about Seattle, Washington visual artist, writer and teacher Colleen Louise Barry’s full-length poetry debut, Colleen (New York/Kingston NY: After Hours Editions, 2022). Barry writes a kind of lyric accumulation of direct statements that assemble into larger structures, offering a book of perception, curiosities and alternate voices. “The truth is a part of age,” she writes, to open the poem “Never Done Quitting,” “is just not about your body // Elegance is rigid / over there, a horizon // the hawk flies over / It is just hungry // to be around you [.]” Composed via the shorter, first-person lyric, Colleen suggests itself as a book entirely around voice, but variations around a singular, central point. Who is this “Colleen” the author writes about? Barry composes lyric monologues that meander and click together across the open space of both thought and the physical page. “The color curtsies into space.” she writes, as part of the poem “Route B43,” “It’s the newest year / in a series of years. / Starting now / it’s my appropriate season.” Hers is a poetry of small moments, even gestures, that connect to form larger portraits and shapes, often not exactly what one might expect, upon opening. “I was so lonely so I bought a fish,” she writes, to open “My Fish,” “I was so lonely // In the night I don’t know what my fish thought / I dreamed of water only [.]” Composing poems of observation, distance and boundaries on birds, fish, lawns, motion and suspension, there are moments her poems seem to be composed from the outside, looking in. “When does the middle part begin?” she asks, to open the poem USA IV,” “Actually, you’re at the end / with a bunch of beautiful drunk people / stepping over ice.” Is it possible for the lyric to be simultaneously cinematic and internal? Possibly, if one is experiencing Colleen.

Regularly Maintained American Lawns

I was driven wild with trespassing
Bodies I never figured out
How to ingratiate

That is this that and the other thing:
Love and what a slowly fading sparkle
I much prefer

The muted shock cardinals harry
in early-mid March snow
on my lawn of all

the regularly-maintained American lawns

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