Sunday, March 12, 2023

Leah Nieboer, soft apocalypse


an argument is rising through the roof
I’m spaced out listening
to the couple next door
on the upper edge of love, or something
lifting off –

I could it seems
skate the length of these powerlines
to Ophiuchus, taking care
not to trip on a constellation of sneakers
dangling where
the others had thrown them off

I believe in love

in the prayers crossing up
this completest dark (“MINOR EVENTS 3”)

I’m fascinated by the deeply precise and dreamy lyric of Denver-based Iowa poet LeahNieboer’s full-length poetry debut, soft apocalypse (Athens GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2023), published as part of The Georgia Poetry Prize as judged by Andrew Zawacki. Across twenty-three poems, ranging from extended lyrics to prose poem stanzas, Nieboer works in lyric clusters, from the assemblage of her individual lines and individual pieces, to cluster-groupings as part of the construction and arrangement of the poems. “failing spectacularly at orderliness the primroses,” she writes, to open the poem “DREAM OF RISKED PHRASES IN SPACE,” “rush hour yellowness // a soft geometry unfinishing // the edges the sentence // giving in to its most // we could say phosphenic [.]” Her extended lyrics pull and fragment, fracture and bend, and manage to simultaneously hold an incredible precision across a landscape, and it is through her lyric fractal and disruption that she offers such unique clarity. “the official measure of // a complete and undeviating /’ orbital oranging everybody,” she writes, as part of “FLASH PROCESSING OF A PRIVATE YEAR,” “this is the year baby // lashing against // the backward infliction of [.]” Nieboer offers a blend of connection and disconnection; almost a tether of disruption that runs through the length and breadth of her text, one that resists the pull of expectation and late capitalism, a multitude of crises, smoke and accident. “in the soft underside of the ashen city,” she writes, as part of “ON A SLEEPLESS NIGHT, KILOMETRES AND / KILOMETRES BELOW WHAT HAD BEEN A / GREAT CITY,” “I dream we’ve written // the end of the movie. I wake up and fine we’ve written only // how do I get out of this production machine.”

Nieboer offers shimmering scenes through memory and her immediate, flashing along akin to landscapes beyond the window of a fast-moving train, or something filmic, disjointed. There is something deeply compelling about the way her lines allow attention to become entirely lost, absorbed. “as it happens,” she writes, as part of the fourteen-page “FORECLOSE ME,” “I have always believed // in the baptismal properties // of yellow // in the way violet // fucks pink into purple // a big promise // a little change // something // falling from your hand [.]”

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