cover image Flickering


Pattiann Rogers. Penguin, $20 (100p) ISBN 978-0-14-313766-5

Rogers’s latest (after Quickening Fields) burnishes her reputation as a transcendental poet of science, with Emersonian grandiosity: “and the sublime universe existing.../ likewise inside the biding/ of the new moon and likewise/ inside the biding of the unknown/ existing inside the waking universe/ asleep inside the universe of the sublime.” Verses of dizzying scope succumb to the gravitational pull of breathtakingly precise lines: “thumb-sized skulls of voles/ and anoles rattled by the slightest breeze, their minutely/ hinged jaws hanging open, each spine a string of slats/ thin as pine needles.” In her introduction, the poet writes that she strove to make poems that would serve as “a moment escape, a settled hope, a brief assurance.” The most ambitious poems exceed this aim: “What is it held within and among/ these stubs and crooked shafts,/ between what has happened and what/ has not, this trashy welter of leafy/ webs, tangles, rips, tears of torn rock?/ What is it living in these lines?” The book concludes with a section by the poet’s son, a physical chemist and materials scientist, who documents the flickering of neural activity. His photographs of electrical impulses accompany snippets of Rogers’s poems: “all asparkling, all aflickering, all aglow.” This is a poignant homage to scientific attention and mystery. (Apr.)