cover image Drift


Caroline Bergvall. Nightboat (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-937658-20-5

Cross-disciplinary artist and writer Bergvall (Meddle English: New and Selected Texts) leads readers on a wind-swept and redolent journey, lost in the sea’s fog. At the book’s core is the 10th-century poem “Seafarer,” an Anglo-Saxon classic of exploration that the poet reconceives as a performance piece. Bergvall toys with the ancient and unfamiliar English, a process both like and unlike translation, resulting in a lyric and strange opening, the letters blown in and out of sense as “Stormed by winter land fell away.” From there, she details in prose a recent tragedy owing to a failure of compassion—72 African migrants left adrift in the Mediterranean in 2011. Amid line drawings and maps, the text opens into a hybrid of verse, essay, and etymological exploration. With its many diverse materials and concerns, the cohesive beauty Bergvall achieves is all the more poignant, as when the final pages linger on love as an experience of being lost. “For all one can say about love’s deep process of reconnection with forgotten impulses and discarded knowledges, at first it really provides no grounding, no view, no balance, no future.” It is a book as filled with ghosts as with beauty, as driven by intellect as by wanderlust—a richly rewarding and memorable experience. Illus. (June)