cover image Sand Opera

Sand Opera

Philip Metres. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-09-1

In his latest collection, Metres (To See the Earth) operates as if the Iraq War unfolded in the age of social media. Readers follow prisoners at the now-infamous Abu Ghraib, observe children amid a developing war, and see the effects of the U.S. government’s extraordinary renditions. The book opens with a record of a prisoner being interrogated. Over the course of a few pages information slowly drains away, redacted until nothing is left but punctuation marks. While the concept is interesting, the writing doesn’t really live up to the form and the redactions don’t reveal anything about the subject that most readers won’t already know from a decade of war and reporting on it. Oddly, in a great tonal shift, Metres leaves the war behind in favor of a section that explores the work of pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge. In beautiful couplets he offers small vignettes loosely based on Muybridge’s photos. Here, in “desire’s winding/stare,” a woman is “clothed only in smoke/ & gender lessons.” The moment is beautiful but quickly passes, almost like a dream in the midst of great catastrophe. Readers are only left with destruction and the PTSD of a decade of war, and in that space language does little to help. [em](Jan.) [/em]