The Next Crystal Text

Melissa Mack. Timeless, Infinite Light, $20 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-937421-26-7
Mack combines the intensity of a polemic with the inquisitiveness of an essay in a debut collection that rebukes the form of the gemstone as a conceptual model for poetry. Instead, Mack describes how such gems elide the histories of labor exploitation and colonialism that produced them: “It’s so clear—these pretty things, they come from somewhere—but we let them be emblem.” Mack divides the book, which is really one long poem, into five sections, each moving between historical fact, luxurious description, and ruthless self-incrimination. “A relation, dispersion.// We see what the crystal’s electrons reject/ the rejected emits,” Mack writes, noting the self’s transformative capabilities. While the work here considers what it might be like to be intoxicated by beauty (gems—“so complete and so ravishing—are like steps that lead into eternity and beyond”), the poem always returns to the “actual work of mining,” how “it was meant to be burdensome.” A glossary is included, defining such terms as cabochon and matrix, but it’s almost unnecessary. In Mack’s work, these beautiful but secretive words parallel the status of crystals and crystallike forms in the world, such that “pendaloque-cut emeralds have become emblem of the world-end.” (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2018
Genre: Fiction
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