cover image Ante body

Ante body

Marwa Helal. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-64362-142-5

The genre-bending second book from Helal (Invasive Species) offers a poetic sequence that examines systemic injustice and the psychological effects of contemporary inequalities and calamities. In lines that eschew standard punctuation and syntax rules, the poet circumambulates the topics of capitalism and patriarchy, using the white space on the page to self-consciously push the boundaries of poetic form. On one such page, "joe the firefighter is" appears at the top, and "this is use of white space" at the bottom. The opening poem "why I so wise" remarks: "it wasnt so much a doubled consciousness, but more akin to a doubled gaze." Elsewhere, Helal offers wisdom, wit, and social commentary: "it's still going badly./ but i intend to make the most of my time," and "im retiring as a human and becoming a/ parrot where i only repeat men's lies (sal-/ ary: commiserate with experience)." In the prose poem "the days is numbered," Helal offers an alliterative sequence: "the days is numbered startling semiannual saccharine sensitivity to sentencing in a season of severing and severances to so called civil servants of streachery and separation." Moments like these can be hard to parse, but Helal's always intriguing use of form will engage readers who enjoy experimental poetry. (May)