Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Carrie Oeding, If I Could Give You a Line

It is so easy. A man walks through a field and makes a line. What else could be made with no hands? Song. I’m becoming all hands, reaching so hard. I’m grabbing every instrument I can find to keep them occupied. What sound am I making? It’s hard to think through my own orchestra. Would you please hold this note? One of these instruments? What do you hear? Is this your hand? It takes a little letting go, I guess. And now everything seems difficult and loud.

A man walks through a field and makes a line. I am blowing a horn to make a path that still. I am just sitting next to your table at my table. I’m talking too loudly about how good the food is. (“THE MAKING OF THINGS”)

I’m struck by the poems in If I Could Give You a Line (Akron OH: The University of Akron Press, 2023), the first I’ve seen but the second collection by Rhode Island poet Carrie Oeding, following Our List of Solutions (42 Miles Press, 2011). If I Could Give You a Line is a collection of poems borne out of a landscape, set as a book of cartography that seeks meaning through placement and mapmaking, examined through sentences. “A man walks through a field and makes a line.” the sequence “THE MAKING OF THINGS” begins, ‘’It is made of nothing but breath, // legs, the willingness of soft grasses. The failure of pencils. // The success of pencils. The phrases that failed you, // but you still have a body. // It is a field of wheat and blindfolded children.” I’m amazed at how Oeding composes moments through which her poems transcend themselves, such as the “blue, blue, blue” offering of the short poem “I KEPT A VOICE IN MY PEACOCK,” the first half of which reads: “It said it wasn’t a peacock. It was a map. / It said it was meant to be read. I read my peacock / and got lost. Peacocks don’t roam. I got lost on very little. / I wanted more, so I left my voice. I didn’t have any / plumage, so I shouted blue, blue, blue, and hoped someone would notice / I was doing all of this without a voice. I hoped someone would notice.” Her poems are composed as extended sentences, stretched-out thoughts that accumulate into lyric prose via deceptively-straightforward narratives. “I forget the line is simple,” she writes, further along the extended sequence “THE MAKING OF THINGS,” “but then remember the line is simple.”

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