Swamp Isthmus

Joshua Marie Wilkinson. Black Ocean (SPD, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-9395680-0-7
Wilkinson’s sixth collection, his second title in what he calls his No Volta pentalogy, takes the suburban as setting, but keeps a child’s eye on the natural world. Here, “where one’s just dragged off/ out of their house// & then this tiny town/ gets its quiet going again,” echoes of industry (and history) permeate a world of backyard forests populated by hydrangeas, bats, and hidden ivy. Brief impressions of both the natural and man-made world fade into a sense of disconnected wonder at a town’s demise, and Wilkinson’s voice is worn, aggressive, bored, and nostalgic, built on associations that deteriorate every few lines. Each of the book’s seven sections is composed mostly of one-line poems and short-lined couplets and tercets.  Occasionally these stanzas cohere: “so the moon/ drifting way too close/ gets leaky// going through treeline when/ a voice in the radio/ accidentally says your name,” but more often, that coherence ends at the stanza break: “swallows gather up in the air again like/ a bushel to pull the cartoon curtains shut// nothing against us/ standing out here// waiting with Declan & cigarettes/ for any bus.” (June)
Reviewed on: 06/24/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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