Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea

Renee Ashley. Subito (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-0-9831150-8-3
The squared-off, almost blindingly vivid one-page prose poems that dominate Ashley’s fifth book end up as committed to individual feeling, lyric, texture, emotional rawness, and authenticity, as they are chary of settling on single plots. The poems involve sex, courtship, fear, fatigue, loyalty, companion animals, and human regret: “It’s no one’s bed we’re lying in & from it we can hear the almost-ocean in the eaves of the house behind the other house. There is the whisper intrusion makes.” The poems’ speakers defend themselves, and they get angry, not least about social class, as in a sequence about the bad jobs that Ashley (Basic Heart) or her persona has held, or in a poem called “you”: “Now you’re resigned to finding in your daily bread the traits of one who led you to believe you owned your life and thought that fine. But you cannot win a war against the dead.” And they turn their fleeting frustrations, their overtones of sticky situations, into protests as well as jokes: “Our metaphors mixed: constellated wasted bird-brained & tongue-tied.” Though the long lines of her few verse poems work well, the New Jersey–based Ashley flourishes in a tradition of brief lyric prose; her analytic gasps, sharp figures, alternately vulnerable and joyful attitude might beckon a wider audience. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/28/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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