Marginalia to Stone Bird

Rose Lemberg. Aqueduct (SPD, dist.), $12 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-61976-099-8
In their debut collection, Lemberg summons elements of speculative fiction to capture a world in which everything is in motion, yet remains guided by language: a song can lead the way in darkness, writing can be a portal from one world to the next, and it's possible to know an incantation "to make the stars unfold/ their arms of ghostly vapor." A book this dense with poems about passing between states—migrants in transit between countries, spirits negotiating between the living and the unliving, celestial bodies that walk the earth in human form—might lose its way if it did not thrive joyfully in its own collective liminality. Throughout, the idea of between-ness as a state persists: "Between the worlds the Between is a gaping/ wound." Lemberg's lyric poems frequently touch on themes of high fantasy and possess many of the same kind of characters: leopard-spotted daughters, young journeymen clad in leathers, and a baby whose skin doesn't burn. The book largely seems to be a collective storytelling experience, referencing signifiers from across time and from invented countries whose records are kept by artisans who always "remember well the past." Lemberg's book is for those who relish fantasy, myth, and simultaneous multiple worlds where "the ocean falls into itself." (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
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