Silk Poems

Jen Bervin. Nightboat, $15.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-937658-72-4
In this skillfully constructed and conceptually arresting book-length poem, poet and artist Bervin (editor, with Marta Werner, of The Gorgeous Nothings) probes the intersections of language and biological form. The poem’s form and structure is modeled on silk’s DNA structure. Narrated from the perspective of a silkworm, Bervin’s sardonic lines challenge the artificial distinctions between text and the material world: “AREYOUSURPRISED/ IQUOTEAPOET// DONTBE/ WE INVENTEDLANGUAGE.” For Bervin, the “MULBERRYLEAF” and its “NECTARFLOOD” represent the original language, as their luminous particles cannot exist without a framework, a grammar, to give them order. Bervin reminds readers that, to understand these careful and intricate constructions, one must learn to see on a smaller scale: “THEEGGS/ STARTINCUBATING// WHENTHEBUDS/ ONTHEMULBERRY/ ARETWO/ CENTIMETERSLONG.” The work also operates as an exercise in listening and measurement; given the close proximity of the words, readers must discover the divisions between concepts and cadences for themselves. Yet the sparseness, brevity, and economy of the lines create a textual terrain filled with silence. Bervin’s inspired interdisciplinary work is one of her finest achievements. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/21/2017
Release date: 10/03/2017
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