To Keep Time

Joseph Massey. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-890650-97-1
Written before he moved to the East Coast, Massey (At the Point) lingers on the unique sounds and ecosystems of Humboldt County, Calif., in painstaking, sparse poems that hum or vibrate on the page. His minimalist landscapes are deceptively lush: we glimpse a hummingbird’s “red-/ metallic/ throat a-/ float/in fog.” Massey sketches the visible (clouds in the sky, power lines that “suspend a crow—/ sliver of cellophane/ cinched in its beak”) and obsessively documents sound in a manner only the most acutely perceptive listeners could match. “As long as blood runs/ the body,/ there is no silence,” he observes with a hint of foreboding. At certain points, he departs from his observations of the aural and the visible, struggling to reach for some insight into the stillness before it “re-/ coils into noise” and is drowned out in the loud racket of the mind. These moments of vulnerability blur the lines between Massey’s inner anxiety and the calm of the immediate environment, providing an element of fragility and sophistication to his small, glinting pieces. As he alternates between the sounds and sights of Humboldt County, Massey encounters the way “Mind/ mirrors/ that surface,/ shape,/ the moment/ I imagine/ if I thought/ far enough/ I’d leave my/ face.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/15/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
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