cover image One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t

One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t

Jacqueline Waters. Ugly Duckling (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-933254-83-8

Waters’s second full-length is nothing if not challenging, and her challenges never arrive without pleasure. Faux-naïf musings on speech and selfhood (“Who is/ they? They are the/ same they always are”) abut appalled slices of political satire (“Sometimes strip mining feels lovable”) and independently beautiful details. All three sorts of language take their place within an almost cubist frame of skewed arguments, repurposed narrative, and meta-literary reflection. “How close to instinct is the Romantic project?” Waters asks. “Is it/ merely pleasing, the assuaging of space-sharing?” Some of her multipage projects (“Guard of an Eaten Collage: A Guard: I”) hang together largely on the basis of abstract approaches, but others have stable, nearly journalistic, subjects, and comic ones, too: the Pennsylvania headquarters for Groundhog Day becomes the site for the leadoff poem, while dialogue between “Jacqueline” and a skeptical interlocutor called Lampwick (“Lampwick this is not what you are looking for/ or it is and you are totally embarrassed”) recurs throughout “The Garden of Eden a College.” That’s “college,” not “collage,” though some pages, with their estrangements and jump cuts, suggest collage elements, too. Waters (A Minute Without Danger) does not make all her answers easy to find; her work could become the object of the year for alert readers willing to return to the same text again and again. (Dec.)