Sunday, July 07, 2024

Leah Souffrant, Entanglements


Nothing I explain is outside this writing, and as I explain it transforms in the telling. But there are countless pieces entangled, unknown, taking shape and changing the work. The travel that might take place. The arrivals of passengers full of excitement. And passengers slow with exhaustion, bored with business. The man next to me asks his interlocutor, “Have you been to the Austin airport?” Which terminal do you see me in? How terminal could any terminal be, how otherwise than yours? I have not been to Austin, I think silently. Where have we never been? Where are we not going, shaping the ideas?

I’m absolutely delighting in the prose of Entanglements (Atlanta GA: Unbound Editions Press, 2023) by New York-based Leah Souffrant, the author of Plain Burned Things: A Poetics of the Unsayable (Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2017), who “makes art, poetry, essays and criticism.” There are ways through which her prose offers comparisons to similar works by Jenny Boully, Sarah Lang, Danielle Vogel [see my review of her latest here] or Lori Anderson Moseman [see my review of her latest here]; a way through which thinking and reading and composition itself are presented across a rich and extended prose lyric. Through Souffrant, the very subject is the shape of the writing as it occurs. “I need poetic form to convey the ways we come to know and create the world we inhabit and experience,” she writes, early on, “both as experience and through experience. These ways are necessarily multiple, plural. Hungry from the fragrances.” As the cover blurb offers: “Nothing less than a journey behind the scenes of her own creative process, Leah Souffrant’s Entanglements embraces the contingency, incompletion, difficulty, and uncertainty of artistic practice.”

The collection is woven, entangled, even through the description of sections—“Introduction: Entanglements: poetic epistemology,” “Thread: And keep me all this night,” “Thread: Attention to Loving,” “Thread: Riddle of Peace,” “Thread: The Book,” “Thread: Riddle of the Physical,” “On Entangling Threads” and “Thread: We are always in ruins” to “Further Entanglements, Works Cited, End Notes.” As the collection opens, she offers the suggestion of being in a particular space and letting the notes fly in highly considered and formed prose, allowing that, even in flight, her thoughts are properly grounded. This is a remarkable collection, one that rewards and even requires repeated readings through a simultaneous lyric density across ease. Further, as she offers:

Poetic knowing has long understood our limitations, the relativism of knowledge, the ways in which attention to what happens – its repetition, its patterns, its disruptions – is how we come to understand anything, perhaps everything. And this arrival comes through the senses: sound, body, living even as we think. Some poets are trapped in history, poets seeking some humans and not others, loving only wheat might have been before them as love-worthy. Language has oppressed, imprisoned, ruined. Loosening chains requires a heat, fine, burning. Yet even these poets might have seen nonetheless a world created in our perceptions. Even here, a fragment of wisdom more capacious than law.


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