Saturday, June 24, 2023

Quietly Between: Megan Kaminski, Brad Vogler, Lori Anderson Moseman and Sarah Green


with texture and light
with words sunk
skin hoarding electric

my relation to scarcity
to extended touch (lack)

I tell you stories I tell no one
that they were just names
whispered from ash    a collection
of coin without reprieve (Megan Kaminski)

I’m intrigued by Quietly Between (Fort Collins CO: A Viewing Space, 2022), a quartet of solicited poem sequences and photography  by American poets Megan Kaminski, Brad Vogler, Lori Anderson Moseman and Sarah Green that each respond to the same very particular prompt. As the original prompt, included at the back of the collection, opens:

15-25 images/cards (combination of text and image).

Begin with place and time.

Place(s): where you are/were. Both text and photos could be of your present place. Or one element is, and the other draws from something else.

Time: some element of time is incorporated into the project. In the film All the Days of the Year, Walter Ungerer returns to the same place in Mount Battie, Camden, Maine every day for one year. He sets up his camera, and takes thirteen, ten second shots while turning the camera clockwise.

Curiously enough (at least to me), three of these poets are above/ground press authors, with the fourth, Sarah Green, being a name entirely unknown to me before this. From Lawrence, Kansas, Kaminski writes “this wide open heavy”; from Fort Collins, Colorado, Vogler writes “Ceremony of Knotted Songs”; from Provo, Utah, Moseman writes “(t)here now soon new”; and from Joshua Tree, California, Green writes “Holding Ground.” I’m fascinated by each contributor’s approach to the serial poem and the poem/photograph interplay, as well as to the poem-as-document, an echo of how Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay termed her own particular exploration through the tradition of the Canadian long poem, “the documentary poem,” or even to Lorine Niedecker’s own simultaneous explorations examining geography and language through and against each other. “My project documents a deep listening and a kind of answering,” Megan Kaminski writes, to open her “PROCESS” note at the back of the collection, “as well, to the human and more-than-human persons that call us into relation and into the specificity of place through their whispers, songs, and histories. From the Kansas Ozarks to my backyard in East Lawrence, to First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach where I sought refuge as a teenager, to the daily bike rides to the Wakarusa wetlands on the edge of town—like the oversaturated spring and summer soil, my embodied experiences and these poems soaked up all that fed them.” Each of the four poets have short ‘process notes’ at the back, offering insight into elements of their thinkings and responses to the original prompt, and there are interesting echoes that ripple throughout all four works of attention to small detail, and how each poet responds through landscape to their individual landscapes and how they see them. As Lori Anderson Moseman writes: “I wrote poems not about the images but through them: snapshots became magnets that drew emotions, experiences, ideas to them. I would revise words as more photos/life events joined the sequence. The most dramatic transformation came after a conversation with Brad Vogler. He challenged me to not limit my vision of our project: one postcard does not have to contain just a single landscape.”

Kaminski’s “this wide open heavy” offers a kind of unfurling across sixteen short lyric bursts, providing one step and then a further step. “to enter into a clearing,” the opening poem writes, “to bathe in gray April light / not-dying not quite emerging [.]” Vogler’s “Ceremony of Knotted Songs” is a sequence of sixteen numbered poems, and there is such delicate thought and placement to his short lines and phrases. “I keep going back // here              there,” he writes, to open the second poem. Or as the third piece begins: “pillowcase curtains / season with /            wind [.]” I very much like the way Moseman’s “(t)here now soon new” writes around and across her particular landscape, spacing out the lyric across the varying and individual points across her view. Her particular lyric offers a kind of accumulation of individual points across a wide gesture. “dear cottonwood,” she writes, “I cannot hear you / from the far jetty // your roar fell last fall [.]” And for Green, her “Holding Ground” is the first I’ve seen of her work; the effect of each poem is akin to setting down one playing card after another, each card shifting the meaning of what came before, each poem self-contained in a kind of tethered row of lyric moments.

Via the poetic sequence, each of these four poets offer their variation on the stretched-out lyric sketch, allowing this collection to emerge into a book about being present in temporal and physical space, each poet blending lyric and photographic attention from their own particular American corners, across a quartet of American states moving straight west from the Midwest to the Coast.

mother left a letter
(home) tree – sassafras
here ash

for you

leaf at (the) river lip
    loosed quietly (lost)
        (on its way) away (Brad Vogler)


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