Friday, July 05, 2024

Lindsey Webb, Plat


Before you died, I confused the personal with the ecological, die with dye. Now I hold my mouth to the mouth of a tree and blow. Was I died here too, or did I born? I call the rabbits whatever comes into my head, though a pearly vapor rolls beneath the real. Deep fur behind a name.

Having published a chapbook of her work, after seeing a copy of her chapbook debut [see my review of such here], I’m delighted to see the full-length debut by Salt Lake City editor and poet Lindsey Webb, the collection Plat (Brooklyn NY: Archway Editions, 2024). Plat is organized as a trilogy of prose poem suites or sequences—“Garden,” “Mancala” and “House”—that float across narrative trajectories of loss and becoming, gardening and death. “When I first considered my career in time,” she writes, to open the third section, “the house installed its kin. Busy setting up for the party, I though they weren’t organs. I thought I had a purse. In your photograph, a white door dries in the morning sun, though in my memory it was red. It bursts into hives when I talk about it, and telescopes my relation to the true.” The poems deal directly, indirectly and even slant (a la Emily Dickinson) with a particular loss, offering this trilogy of prose poem suites as a loose narrative exploration around that loss, writing the garden, and gardening as a particular response to grief. “Lindsey Webb’s Plat is a haunted,” the back cover offers, “Western elegy which grapples with the suicide of her childhood friend in the context of their Mormon upbringing. In conversation with Joseph Smith’s prophesied but unrealized heavenly city, the Plat of Zion, Webb explores a vexed, disorienting space. Her prose poems lead the reader through an unearthly garden and into a house which eludes laws of time or space, unearthing the porous border between the living and the dead.” It is extremely difficult to compose such a volume around grief without falling permanently into the subject matter while also offering both salve and readable journey—worthy titles on grief I often recommend include The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning, edited by George Bowering and Jean Baird, Susan Howe’s That This and Stuart Ross’ recent award-winning The Book of Grief and Hamburgers [see my review of such here]—and this collection manages to hold on while completely allowing the content to slowly wash over. Early in the first section, as Webb writes: “Everywhere I plant theories about your death they come up several / months later sticky and rotting from the inside with motive.”

I dig, mulch, prune, and fertilize; I don’t dig, mulch, prune, and fertilize. I grow you; I die you. In my dream I visit a time before your death, when nature generated itself from a spool of tiny spirals. Little white berries. I’m told the garden is wherever the righteous are, or vice versa; so at the felled catalpa I follow a vein of pollen, adopt a mastic attitude. I eat something that looks delicious but has no taste. Meanwhile, over my shoulder, a young woman sucks at the sap of a tree, bending as if permanently cast that way, shrouded in the blue light of archetype.


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