How the Universe Is Made: Poems New & Selected 1985–2019

Stephanie Strickland. Ahsahta, $22 (302p) ISBN 978-1-934103-87-6
Strickland’s (Dragon Logic) first retrospective volume collects poems across 30 years of feminist innovation, including generous selections from each of her published works. Readers can track Strickland’s increasingly visual experimental work from book to book, noting the importance throughout of particular interlocutors whom Strickland calls codemakers. These include Simone Weil (to whom a whole book is dedicated), Emily Dickinson, and physicist David Gibbs. These figures’ various negotiations of private and public lives generate some of Strickland’s most precise observations, such as when she describes Gibbs “escaping,/ in every emotional way... creating the loneliness/ he needed,” an achievement that risks becoming “un-readable.” Strickland’s own individual idiom is more playful, and her references are balanced with an interest in fragmentation and calling upon the agency of the reader to fill in gaps, especially in more recent work: “Gentle Reader, begin anywhere. Skip anything,” she implores, “Anything/ else will represent a settled course.” A closing selection of visually oriented poems, some of which point readers to online components, is a bit unwieldy but points as well to Strickland’s desire to expand poetry’s field. Questions of embodiment and lineage in the public realm remain compelling ground in all Strickland’s forms, including the new work collected here. “I am as alone as survival permits/ Not at all and quite bit.” (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018
Release date: 01/01/2019
Genre: Fiction
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