If Not Metamorphic

Brenda Iijima, Author . Ahsahta Press
(SPD, dist.), 17.50 (128p) ISBN (128p) ISBN 978-1-934103-10-4

In Iijima's fourth collection, shifts and spaces on the page animate the messy and glorious process of making meaning. As suggested by “metamorphic” in the title (meaning a change in a rock's physical form or substance, usually as a result of heat or pressure), geological metaphors are essential to these four long poems. The stunning title piece, composed entirely of questions, sifts and settles across its pages like sediment, both moving (in every sense) and unwaveringly direct. “Tertium Organum” has a noisier geologic structure, suggesting the violence of human intervention: “Twisted corset the tectonic plates make/ when crassness butts up against steel.” This collision of registers and the resulting dissonance is much of the point. Language, here, “encroaches,” “is engorged,” and “is hit by passing vehicles.” Often, it moves metonymically, leading us from idea to idea by way of sound: from “loan” to “lone,” “suffer” to “sulfur,” “sees” to “siege,” and “sunder” to “tundra.” Sometimes Iijima jumps between registers via overt protest, as in “song birds gave way to acid rain.” At her most self-reflexive, she describes her “affection for/ provocative contrasts.” The experience of following these contrasts is thrilling; as Iijima writes, “In a manner of speaking we flew.” (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/21/2009
Release date: 01/01/2010
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