Saturday, March 11, 2023

Laura Walker, psalmbook



if i could write down

everything you say would

i,   a tree becomes a single thing

water    inexactitude (“psalm 1”)

Berkeley, California poet and editor Laura Walker’s latest, following swarm lure (Battery Press, 2004), rimertown/ an atlas (UC Press, 2008), birdbook (Shearsman Books, 2011), Follow-Haswed (Apogee Press, 2012) [see myreview of such here] and story (Apogee Press, 2016) [see my review of such here] is psalmbook (Apogee Press, 2022), a collection self-described thusly:

In spare, lyrical fragments, psalmbook channels the Book of Psalms as an act of radical listening, “a spirituality of attention” (Cole Swensen). In these poems, Laura Walker re-inhabits the Book of Psalms, King James Version, to channel the voices she finds there. These psalms plumb desire, faith, and loss, a land of hum and sponge where the necessity of belief and the impossibility of belief hunt and sway. i remember you, the psalmist sings; once/ you walked in this land, and made soft thrumming sounds// once you were outlined in paper.

Composed in short sketched lyrics, Walker’s poems weave a blend of response, extraction and exhumation, offering a different life to Biblical verse. Her numbered suite sit in the collection out of order, set in a kind of jumble, and presumably (but not necessarily) correspond to the particular correlate in the King James translation. For example: the collection opens with “psalm 85,” “psalm 8,” “psalm 84,” “psalm 141,” “psalm 16,” “psalm 102” and “psalm 1.” Walker opens a numbering system that hints at her order of composition, but could be anything, really. What is interesting, also, is Walker’s use of repetition, as certain psalm titles repeat, allowing for loops and patterns, echoes and threads of line and lyrics returning with slight variations, offering new ways through a material already presented. The collection begins with “psalm 85,” and ends there as well, offering a kind of cycle through a swirl of psalms. Walker offers, a lyric of philosophical attention; of points and pinpoints, composing a deep attention arrived at through erasure and excision, focusing not on composition but extraction and repetition. This is a book of reconsiderations, of lament and praise, and what lessons she exposes and composes from an often-worn but still vibrant text. “we tell everyone : we are here,” she writes, to close her second poem utilizing the “psalm 1” title, “we are here : / we weave and stray [.]”


1 comment:

monty reid said...

good good
I'm familiar with the Psalms and there are indeed correlations, and discorrelations