Real Life: An Installation

Julie Carr. Omnidawn, $17.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-63243-057-1
Poet, essayist, and translator Carr (Objects from a Borrowed Confession) asks poetry to be radically capacious in her ambitious 10th collection, to let in all the overlapping forces that constitute “real life.” Structured in symphonic movements, Carr’s poems make room for data, direct experience, dreams, and the works and ideas of others as expressed in art, literature, and conversation. Among the themes that arise are parenthood, pregnancy (and its various outcomes), violence, poverty, labor, the texture of time as it passes—“All the pains and all the pleasures,” as she writes. Far from feeling scattered, Carr’s work exists where public and private brush against each other, where, as in real life, conflicting bits of information sometimes reconcile though often do not. The formal tactics are likewise diverse, regularly blurring the border between poetry and prose. As with actual gallery installations, Carr’s work invites the audience to consider their own involvement with the space: “You want to enter this room without touching anything. But this is impossible. Your presence, most of all, a discharge.” Just as installations are distinct as art forms in that they place multiple objects in relation, a central question here regards how a person positions the self amid the forces that shape them and the world. Carr’s poetry, porous and flexible, opens a space through which all of life may pass. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/17/2018
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