Gloss

Wendy Barker. Saint Julian, $16 trade paper (106p) ISBN 978-1-732-05425-7
Barker (One Blackbird at a Time) moves easily between literary forms in her graceful seventh book. Presented as a sequence of linked pieces that consider identity, woman- hood (the poet’s mother, in particular), and the experience of cultural otherness, Barker creates a dialogue between prose and verse, as well as traditional and experimental poetic techniques (“From one life to another,” she writes, as though describing the work’s skillful shifts between rhetorical modes). Indeed, Barker’s poems offer different conceptual lenses for the same experience or stretch of time within the narrator’s life. “How you can fold yourself in on yourself,” she emphasizes, “How you can take your own layers and tuck them into creases,” layering possibilities over the same experience, observation, or narrative. Here, self is seen as other, “a way to lighten the weight inside,” to lessen the heft of a sprawling past by cultivating critical distance. As much as this collection is populated by myriad voices, it is haunted by “a silence glistening through sudden empty/ space.” Barker’s dexterous shifts in form compliment the book’s central questions and themes, offering a richly complex interrogation of family history. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/14/2019
Release date: 01/15/2020
Genre: Poetry
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