Barbara Tomash. Black Radish, $17 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-9979524-6-9
With great dexterity and a touch of alchemy, Tomash (Arboreal) examines lexical semantics through contemplating series of prefixes and what each is capable of prompting. Tomash refrains from revealing the full words that she conjures from each prefix; the poems cohere in the manner of a collage of various incomplete definitions. It’s an absorbing linguistic expedition that will leave readers puzzling out the words being delineated and their relationships with each other. Many of the prefixes repeat, such as “ex-,” “trans-,” “twi-,” and “ideo-.” Tomash’s poems function as much more than a means to interrogate linguistic possibilities. They start to become small worlds in themselves, abstract but meticulous. Within one of the “[twi-]” poems, for example, Tomash writes: “the same plane of atoms that share/ the light between/ the subdued just after.” The organizing principles vary as well, as with this “[ideo-]” poem that eschews stanzas in favor of colons: “the object pictured is supposed to suggest : not the object pictured : muscular activity : often blindly arise : rather than a word : their nature & source : but not the object pictured : the object pictured : but motivated by an idea blindly.” Enigmatic yet welcoming, Tomash’s poems illuminate hidden relationships buried in language. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2018
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