Thursday, December 07, 2006

Laura Sims


Have I seen such a tower

Her fleshy, spectacular hand

Would the dogs not find

A tower of ash when the hearth wound down

What it costs

to put winter in you!

Her nails cleanly sculpted, bare

And the autumn?

One buys tires for life


Then her hair falls down

Her hand

Is the winter

lost, little innocent people?

"Winter in You," originally published in Fence Magazine, is the first poem in Sim's first book, Practice Restraint. This book, which Rae Armantrout describes as "resonant of minimalism while engaging in "lyric critically on its own ground," is extremely of the moment it seems to me. The lines here, like Armantrout's, are clipped, the gaps in the poem doing all kinds of work. The Dickinsonian wit snapping the page here and there. These poems read in fact like fragmented, or rather, gutted prose poems. And this is interesting to me--they are in some ways very conventional narrative poems, but scaled back and chiseled with razor sharp insight.

Formally I'm not sure what to make of all the space in the poems, nor the regular shape of them. It's intriguing, and somehow more conventional than one might expect. Not quite abstract, but perhaps more like video feed. This might not be the most interesting aspect of the poems, but it's of interest to me...

From the series BANK here is "Bank Thirty-One"

Trees over here

Over there

In one empty classroom

The girl is turning

The town inside out


The worst is


This reads like an elongated post-post modern haiku.

What pleases me about this book is the very clipped nature, the highly condensed particulars. Sims wide-ranging engagement is quite spectacular, and I revel in the consistency of voice over a good 100 pages (that length in itself an accomplishment in these days of 49 page first books).

This is a fabulous book and a very impressive first book. Still, I'm not yet sure what I think of it as a poetic experience. This is something I've been worrying over for a while now about a strand of poetry that is becoming more and more prevalent in the US, and probably doesn't belong in a review (though I suppose this being on my blog I can do what I want). One thing I notice is that my engagement with the text is very tentative. The book doesn't want me to linger in it. I read several poems and grow intimate with the cadence of the poet, but the very nature of the poetic project itself seems to spurn the reader. At least momentarily...these interruptions are of course part of the point, and perhaps my comments are more about my own reading than the work itself, but I suspect if I keep noticing it (and I have...) that it must be worth thinking about. I'm just registering a nagging at the base of my poetic spine that is becoming increasingly attuned to poetry that is kicking me out of orbit.

Sims' book skirts this line with a great deal of success.

Laura Sims
Practice, Restraint, Fence Books, 2005

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