That September when I first saw Lake Michigan, I wanted it to be the sea. Inhales and I would pretend I could taste salt from the air in my nose.
In the many months hundreds of articles twenty pounds three books all the injury and essays mouthfuls and loves and songs there were births and murders and deaths disasters storms and protests—and some semblance of home now every day when I see this lake.
Like that cocooning settle downhill into Manitou Springs in Colorado—closer to Pikes Peak’s white cap of snow and closer to my apartment, another threshold, so far away from the megachurch and from the military bases where I worked—or Bloomfield into Friendship neighborhood in Pittsburgh where the red house brick red house line the avenue to school. (“ON LAKE MICHIGAN”)
Soham Patel, rewarded this past week through the publication of her third full-length collection all one in the end—/water (Fort Collins CO: Delete Press, 2023) [see my review of her first two full-length collections here]. one in the end—/water is a collection that is, in part, set as an intimate and book-length response via lyric to an array of poets working a blend of lyric, deep attention and ecological concern, including Lorine Niedecker, Brenda Iijima, Matthew Olzmann, Maggie Nelson, Dawn Lundy Martin and Ronaldo V. Wilson. The title of the collection, for example, is directly borrowed from Niedecker’s poem “Paean to Place.” Blending lyric, line-breaks and prose poems, Patel’s is a lyric attending the very consideration of being, and being present, and the variety of perspectives and observations provide multiple directions upon the same sense of attending those moments. “Debris left standing is dead and so won’t be cut down for the humans’ safety so the power company says accordingly a fear I now hate but have conditions towards each tree from the middle to the end of our easement where I warranty me to learn all we can about this here rooted lands we’ve just moved in.” (“EXACTNESS COMES WITH WIND GUSTS”).
Patel writes colours and waves and lights across the ether. Writing on place names and ancestors, rain and what it uncovers, these are poems around a singular sense of geography that just as much explore how writing is thought and composed. As part of the poem “ON LAKE MICHIGAN,” she writes: “Matthew’s poems about shipwrecks in the great lakes lists fish and it all makes me so thirsty.” This is clearly a book composed in conversation, and in response, and there is something startling in this approach centred in a poetics of Niedecker and Iijima (the book is dedicated to Iijima), of space and rock and ecological concerns. Something startling, I suppose, in how clear-minded the poems read, amid, or even through, such polyvocabulary. It is interesting to think, as well, of this collection, as Patel offers in a note at the end of the collection, as “reassemblages from the previously published chapbooks,” blending previously-published material into an entirely coherent book-length form. There is such deep, abiding care through her attention. “Once I found a shiny layered rock on // Brighton Beach in the sand,” she writes, as part of “LISTEN IT’S MY DAY OFF,” “All over the darkness is real though // And oil fueled the plane not a boat [.]”
LIKE SNOW IN THE SUN I WANT TO S(T)AY. Opaque and at arm’s length with screens and the satellites, how this new word we learned, beautiful, is so. We are a dangerous thing, candles uttering against trees. We are dismantling from within under&uncommon and yet here to illuminate or else we’ll correct or uncover. Our light awaits warm and burn. It means renewal.