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Judith Goldman’s Shapeshifting l.b.; or, catenaries

By Harriet Staff


Anthony Ramstetter reviews Judith Goldman’s l.b.; or, catenaries
(Kruspkaya 2011) for HTMLGiant, writing that the collection “is perhaps Goldman’s experimentalist humor tour-de-force, and news about its release has created a ton of buzz this year.” Ramstetter reassures those who might find the 200-page book daunting in size: “but [it] is also a quick and highly entertaining read, especially when taking time to consider thoughtfully as a reader the various forms in her poetry series that shape-shift between ideas surrounding progressive struggles.” More:

However, it should be noted that Judith Goldman creates lines with surreal nuances, and so she seems concerned with much more than simple fun and games. As Alan Halsey puts it, “There are some funny and painful stories timing out among her whiplash puns and quickfire fragments. ‘This is el dorado, reader / your face / paved with gold’: here’s a mirror, take a look” (emphasis added). This summation is accurate, as painful notions—especially the struggles of social-political progressiveness— abound in this collection as well, with several nods to academic vice such as in the phrase “brothels of mimesis,” the at times intangible struggle of “just getting by” with “[s]craping / the bottom of the bowl,” to the performativity of demotic living with “truth is not enough: This / is just its Social Character.” Here and at other points, Judith Goldman succeeds at personifying the anthropologic other (though its true identity is evasive to this reader) into immediacy and thus relevancy via “sum of the parts equals the whole.” The abstract beginning word to the final phrase, “truth,” is deemed by Goldman as decidedly un-circumstantial since it is incomplete (“not enough”) and finally, the word “this” is a classic Ashberyesque undefined term that is just its Social Character—something that to me is not necessarily complete per se but is an agential entity in and of itself.

I am convinced that if l.b.; or, catenaries were to be a domestic beer, it would be a shape-shifting brew caught unapologetically between the agitated political stewing of an Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout and the refreshing, restoring crispness of a Ommegang Witte, the former beer as a poetic quality that is best enjoyed moderately from this reader’s standpoint to make room for Goldman’s aforementioned wordplay with the Belgian-white spatiality that constitutes the various experimental forms of her poems. Case in point, the vast majority of the collection contains lines enjambed in a similar fashion, falling at the least likely syntactical division in the sentence or phrase. This unorthodox line breaking and weird enjambment is wonderful throughout this collection of poems, as displayed in this opening selection from the poem “if all else fails”:

[See original post for poems excerpt.]

The poet’s choice of diction with “killing the image” is striking for a number of reasons; firstly, if we are to refer back to this line from “we fat all creatures else to fat us” may coordinate “image” and “fat” with self-image. Having “no more milk teeth to cut” gives an undertone of a lack of human-animal functionality along with an undertone of losing one’s teeth, further confirmed by line 10’s “losing their belief in inaction.” These said humans and/or animals appear to be mourning their loss of function, or perhaps we as readers of Goldman’s work are doing something similar. . . .

Ramstetter also writes that Goldman’s “excellent aptitude in dealing with variations of the demotic is reminiscent of a much less minimal Dana Ward.” Read the full review here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, February 4th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.