cover image Iteration Nets

Iteration Nets

Karla Kelsey, Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $17.50 (128p) ISBN 978-1-934103-15-9

This second outing from Kelsey (Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary) poses extreme challenges throughout its three parts, two of which end up beautiful anyway. Part one consists of 18 sonnets, each made of borrowed lines from prior poetry and philosophy (John Donne, Lisa Jarnot, Hannah Arendt), partly of translated lines from earlier poems (such as Petrarch), and partly of homophonic translations (finding sounds, rather than meanings, that match the original). The results can sound like a scrapbook or like spam e-mail: “Miasma cradled I dim, cast worries, shove air and hold.” But these collage-like, disorienting constructions provide a launching pad for the 18 prose poems of the second part, expansively Romantic in their tone and affect, but challenging in their construction. The prose poems incorporate phrases from the sonnets, but build up around them (like pearls around grit) meditations on memory, childhood, death, the sea: “We walk the smothered sound for the wave now is the river’s mouth, paid, tilted a-quiver.” After these expansive works comes the ghostly third part, short poems made by erasing most of the words in each of the poems in Part Two: “voices/ carrying/ through/ ruined fields/ and breathing/ as if my body were a/ window,” one concludes. (Sept.)