Monday, May 22, 2023

Endi Bogue Hartigan, oh orchid o’clock


hour entry: Gyms are Thanksgiving for clocks

Gyms are Thanksgiving for clocks, because people are only there for so long and there is the question of economy which is a mathematical relation to the consumption of their lives. I dress in a woman’s locker room in which you must be 13 at least to be, so it is a post-pubescent locker room and the women speak frankly as they dress.

Listen: there is a prayer to speak less or less mathematically than speech. I speak about the elliptical clock-count, the 30-minute sign up, I endeavor not to speak of prayer charts but they exist too consumed by marigold and sheets. They are consumed in being legible to God so the moment I utter something it is written in the ether log onto them and at the same moment vanishes, I hope, received.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this erasure.

The third full-length poetry collection, following One Sun Storm (Center for Literary Publishing, 2008) and Pool [5 choruses] (Richmond CA: Omnidawn, 2014) [see my review of such here] by Pacific Northwest poet Endi Bogue Hartigan is oh orchid o’clock (Omnidawn, 2023). Appearing nine years after the publication of her prior full-length collection, oh orchid o’clock is a book about time, from delineations and attentions to the very loss of time: time sits at a marker from which all else is perceived, written, achieved or ignored. Even an absence of time is an outline, shaping what is no longer there. Are we out of time, perhaps? “At least three times last week,” she writes, to open the prose poem “hour entry: At least three times last week,” “I broke the time space agreement and the squealing of / interplanetary railroads began.” Offering notes on and around time, Hartigan composes a temporal sequence of measures through a suite of prose poems and longer lyric jumbles organized as individual parts of a much larger whole. This is a book about time, after all, and there’s no time like the present; all else is time. Hartigan offers time as both metaphor and structure, writing of end times, lost times, made-up time, violent time, the times we pay for in advance. She composes this collection as an expansive tapestry of lyric squares, temporal shards and narrative moments, some in motion and others held in amber; time held and held up, turned slowly in the light. “Do not mistake headlines for measure.” She writes, to close out the prose poem “hour entry: When John Adams wrote,” “We were held in God’s soft / pocket. Do not mistake automatic grieving for water.” She writes a chronology of notes that layer, fold in and accumulate, writing the multiplicity of perception around how such an impossible measure might be considered.

There is something reminiscent here of New York City poet Brenda CoultasThe Writing of an Hour (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2022), a collection that framed itself, at least in the opening section, around a temporal structure [see my review of such here], but Hartigan’s temporal articulations are far more fractured and fragmented, offering their accumulation as a kind of layering throughout the larger collection. There is almost something of the “day book” to how Hartigan writes about time, but one untethered to hours or calendar years, days or even weeks; hers are composed as moments, each weighing no more and no less than any other. Inherently equal, which might even be impossible. And yet.

I walked through handwritten clouds

            “All clocks are clouds.” —Michael Palmer

/there was no one
on the playground maybe swingset dew

/I was leaning toward belief that I can speak
with you a while while speech
leaks out of us in failed flower clusters

/italic numerals mechanically pinned
to the clockface the clockface to the sun

 /I walked through over-said worlds, I walked
through handwritten clouds

/the aspiration “I am always
praying” are you always praying

/the pressurized cloud bank: always


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