cover image Of Mineral

Of Mineral

Tiff Dressen. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-64362-141-8

The contemplative second book from Dressen (Songs from the Astral Bestiary) uses spare language to describe the natural world in lines that often spread across the page. In “A Letter in May: from Portola, San Francisco,” the speaker wanders the city examining the natural and human-made elements of the landscape, feeling at times like an interloper: “This city is a labyrinth// I walk/ in my invasive/species body.” Likewise, in “Poem for Epiphany #2,” the speaker mars the crystalline perfection of a fresh snowfall, “I walk the first/ scars on snow/ all the night/ bright over/ brittle I am sky-/ illiterate.” Slant rhyme and imagery conjures a quiet beauty. In “Night Ark,” the speaker becomes one with marine life: “we took on water/ night/ phospho/ reticence... some fish spoke/ through my/ lungs.” Many poems are dedicated to—or are renditions of—other poets’ styles, including Barbara Guest,Karin Lessing, and Frank O’Hara. Dressen also draws from music and mathematics, citing the works of Bach and Alan Turing in the same poem to explore the spectrum of human ingenuity. Dressen’s brevity might leave some readers feeling less than satisfied, as these ephemeral snapshots offer little overarching cohesion. Still, their precise, lyrical language offers a persuasive beatitude. (Apr.)