Andrea Applebee’s Aletheia (Black Square Editions, 2017)

This month I’m teaching in my advanced poetry workshop Andrea Applebee’s fascinating collection Aletheia, a recent volume from the exquisitely curated Black Square Editions. I’m particularly enjoying the beautiful lyric “To Listen”:

Filaments, principles, the lift
and sway, drop and run: uneasy
furtive arrangements of a body.

Musically, then, we persist
in unnecessary but comforting caution.
And maybe that is all there is to it:

the burden of knowing sinks like an oyster
lost at first glance, never to be heard from again.
What a waste.

Lost, as the light in wild crawling things
shimmering at the edges of seas is lost
after low tide.

A grassy hill unfolds damp colors.
The sky speaks no one’s language.

It seems, on a quick first read, a clever synthesis of, say, Marianne Moore and Jack Spicer. And there’s a wonderful fluidity in this subtle and resonant sonnet, which provides the perfect architecture for unfolding perception and fine-grained attention. I admire how, in the first stanza, the dense assonance, the contrasts of concretion and abstraction and of vertical and horizontal movements, and the deftness of the parallel structures give way to an earned casualness in the second stanza that sets up the navel of the poem: a neat engagement with the cliché “world as oyster” to present, in fresh ways, an epistemological crisis. The penultimate stanza offers both extension and illuminating analogy, and the poem ends with a couplet that yokes together land and sky and attests to an inscrutable and fleeting but, nevertheless, rich sensory experience. A moment’s monument, indeed.

~ by Michael Leong on April 5, 2018.

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