The Word Kingdom in the Word Kingdom

Noah Eli Gordon. Brooklyn Arts (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (156p) ISBN 978-1-936767-38-0
Gordon (The Year of the Rooster) addresses head-on questions about the possibilities of language, wondering where the distance between a word and its referent is greatest, where it collapses, and how poetry can inhabit those spaces and manipulate them. “In the Word Kingdom/ the word kingdom can’t straddle its horse. It doesn’t have one./ There are no animals there. No currycombs, no stirrups, no saddles.” Through assertion of what is not present or possible, Gordon manifests those very situations and objects, framing them in an argument about the fundamental rifts between what a word is, what a word does, and the material world. This simultaneous evocation and negation is a counterpoint that runs throughout the book. His poem “For Expression” (which was included in Against Expression, a 2011 anthology of conceptual poetry) offers a meditation on polarity in a long sequence of two-part assertions, such as “For the condition/ of air/ Against air/ conditioning,” “For workers/ Against force,” “For the capacity/ to imagine/ your nakedness/ Against the endless/ images of it.” Gordon’s poems can veer into the didactic, even smug, but they also happen to be an admirable call for more inventive and rigorous attention to the complex transactions of word, poem, and life. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/16/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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