Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Jennifer Spector, Hithe


Of how elements canopy
                    Plum rose and ginger, cashew, prestonia,
The corotú parasoled harbour and shade
                       & setchell in burrows of grazing
Batten, trumeau, gable                 leg and hand
Housed in a wind-shelled pharos


One bird scoring an aria as we collect our tea
          Bristles silver on the soft
Shake of tail                 aligns with moon-burned tide

                                    It is the first morning of time
                            And the morning today (“A SAIL HORSE”)

Thanks to rural Ottawa poet Chris Turnbull, I was recently introduced to the work of Jennifer Spector, an American poet from New York currently living and working in Panama, specifically through her poetry title Hithe (Connemara, Ireland: Xylem Books, 2021). There is such stretch to these lyrics, such delicate placement and rhythm across incredible distances through phrases set carefully. Her poems are composed out of lines and phrases that accumulate, not carved but placed or assembled, set carefully one on top of another. “know / the cold / how it rips your skirt / dances the grave / shuttles its many nests,” she writes, to close the three-part, four-page lyric “SAND HWYL,” “this breath / did you suspect / flush scooped / of own dark weep?” The author biography on Spector’s website writes that her work “embraces a poetics of place and dialogue with the natural world, as it alters, translates, or abstracts in retrieval.” Certainly, this self-description of her work not only connects deeply to the self-description of the publisher’s interests and aesthetics, but to Chris Turnbull’s ongoing projects as well (and I half wonder if Turnbull might emerge with a title through Xylem Books at some point). “blade with me in low / grasses,” she writes, to open the three-page poem “MIGRATIONS,” “stay quiet     the pirate / birds and saltarines deep building rough nests / spindle the trees // let us lay to ground      or / island for weeks / to roost on dry cliffs [.]” Or, as the following page begins:

   follow me    sleep near quiet water
trail our carrion at the sound       swimming
                iguanas       headed to islands will walk
        across land
    clutches of thirty
share nests along mangroves and rivers
     even the crocodiles   emerge at night, stalking
swamp brakes

There’s an enormous amount of physical and conceptual space between Spector’s phrases and lines, so clearly and deliberately set. There is a thickness of description managed without a single wasted or extraneous word, with echoes of Lorine Niedecker in tone combined with Phil Hall’s bricolage and condensed language, brought into a deeper and more refined sharpness; or imagine, if the late Nelson Ball composed sequences with longer threads, and a bit more lyric. Deeply physical in short and sharp detail, this is an absolute beauty of a collection, one deeply attuned to attending the glossary of landscape. I am delighted to go through this.

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