cover image Transfer of Qualities

Transfer of Qualities

Martha Ronk. Omnidawn (IPG, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-890650-82-7

Ronk’s 10th collection takes as its central tenet the idea that people and objects engage in a deep kind of transference. That is, in any interaction with a thing, a person’s desires and thoughts are imprinted on the thing, and some aspects of the thing rub off on the person. This thesis of sorts is established at first with small prose poems that take their cues from Stein’s Tender Buttons, poems titled “The Cup,” “The Folded Muslin,” “Corroded Metal.” But the association with Stein stops there: “We wonder what, if anything, objects want, if our rearranging satisfies some hidden need not only of ours but of theirs. Things found in the gutter and rescued, we say, are given another life, but as what—to be looked at, handled, to be made into what one wills…” Ronk’s collection of “various objects,” books, photograms, people and portraits dominate the collection, which moves from prose to lineated poems, to essays, to brief passages of nonfiction, seguing into topics of representation, death, mourning, love, and intimacy with the physical world. “…breakable bowls, plates, pitchers, and vases. If a piece is old and it has been broken and mended, its fragility exposed by means of glue and cracks, it seems ever more profoundly touched by the sensual and uncanny.” (Oct.)