Poetry News

A Thinking Book: Lindsay Turner Reviews The Antidote

By Harriet Staff


Lindsay Turner reviews Jack Frost! Whatta pair. At The Kenyon Review Online, Turner starts off her thinking on The Antidote (Compline Editions 2013) with Virginia Woolf (whatta pair) and Frost's use of the eclipse "for the node of revolutionary desire and activity around which her first book . . . takes shape.. The strangeness of the eclipse is that it engulfs the living, feeling spectators—and that they emerge again on the other side." More:

A thinking book, The Antidote shows evidence of Frost’s reading in classics and theory, as she has explained in an interview. But the work also struggles to recount an experience of a certain cultural moment, a community simultaneously present or cohering in that moment, and the conditions—here, linguistic ones—by which the moment might be both recognized and rendered.

In part, Frost is after an impossible way of “narrating”: how to tell the story of a chaos without ordering it, how to relate a complicated revolutionary energy without turning it into a history—or tragedy, a concept evoked sketchily by Frost’s classical allusions—of what happened, or what didn’t. As she puts it, “[t]o see crisis not as a great hill that comes into relief against the depth of a valley, but as the voltaic atmosphere and eccentricity of fog.” Or again:

One could fabulate, desperately, a sequence for crisis, but never without nostalgia’s subterfuge. We do not know how many people built barricades to defend the Commune or marched on the port, or how. How somewhere, someone has explained that suddenly you are draining the tanks of motorcycles for molotovs, as if the present in someone’s past was perceptibly arriving. To whom does one even say I feel more alive than ever.

An atmosphere, a fog, a way to relate not numbers but presences, not causes but feelings. In prose lines that bear traces of spoken language’s cadence, Frost’s strategic shiftiness turns what looks at first like narrative into something more like a miasma of textures, colors, glints, half-completed actions:

What love has to feed the poor—in auburned days, we drafted one fox heart to ferry the nightmare of this people, drown its monied mouth and offer methane a wreck.

This story isn’t a story at all, but its elements combine to evoke a loose drama: the russet of a living animal, the appetites of a group of people, the burden and strain of duty, something about currency and chemicals and catastrophe and hope.

Read the full review at The Kenyon Review Online.

Originally Published: July 25th, 2014