Friday, July 27, 2012

Listening for Earthquakes by Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Book Review

Listening for Earthquakes, Jasmine Dreame Wagner's book of poems published by Caketrain Journal and Press, is a love letter set to everything poetry can be. Alternating stretches of prose with stanza poetry, Wagner must be read like Whitman- the clang of the words mean something to the ears, but the sight of the words on the page are designed to have just as much impact. Wagner delights in shades of ink, and in words located on lines in ways that can't be spoken or performed. You have to see the book, which is itself as much a work of art as the words it contains.

My favorite poem in the collection, "There Is No Part of the Body That Hasn't Been Pierced," demands that the entire book be turned sideways to be read. The Beatitudes that pour off those pages are an affirming and often mind-bending collision of words.

    Blessed are the firecrackers, cherry bombs, snapdragons, for they are 

        the waterworks, sweaty palms, calendulas of sudden vision.
In that poem, Wagner rolls on, exclaiming (not asking with a question mark; these sentence end with a period) of the sun: is it not unlike a feather headdress on a mule...

    ...a silk-bound door... is it not a stoplight...
from Caketrain Press
Wagner's approach to definition is through the impossible- prove to me the negative, she says over and over again, and then I will be willing to see the world your way.

Listening for Earthquakes is a book about the world as a canvas, about the painful painting we do in it. It is a book filled with bridges and doors and pathways marked by missed connections.

One thing more I love about Wagner's book is that she is not afraid of her stupendous vocabulary. It has been a long time since a book made me read it with a reference at hand, but Listening for Earthquakes is that kind of book. Hepafilter. Filigree. Ameliorates.

Don't read passively, she says. Turn it sideways, crease the spine. Maybe even put the book down so you can grasp at the meaning.

Book 28 of my book-a-week challenge.

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