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Rod Smith’s Touché, Truly a Coarsening Flux
Jacket2 features a few new reviews today, including Yosefa Raz on Jocelyn Saidenberg’s Dead Letter and Brandon Brown’s Top Forty (both, Roof Books 2015); Laura Carter writing on Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women (Ahsahta 2015); and Adam Marston reviewing Rod Smith’s Touché (Wave Books, 2015). In this piece, “Punkness and the inescapable self,” Marston writes that “Touché’s ‘futility as figurative / extreme’ (81) is strikingly analytical about uncertainties in private awareness, domestic American politics, and the malleable referentiality of language in relation to the author’s scatological, punny, and aesthetically ‘clumsy’ organizations of it, much more punk rock in Smith’s DIY grammatics than actual idiocy.” More:
For me, the most successful part of Smith’s poetry is how slippery accountability becomes in small spaces between very carefully chosen words. In the fifth line of “[screened in]” we know the abstract language that came before (bluffed, churning, caught, bent) feels only connotatively sexual. But there’s an oddly placed narrative situation based on opportunities in the grammar. “Churning’s” reads as both “churning has” and “churning is,” and “learning’s bent” reads the same, personifying those verbs by possessing their own. The poem wants both a personifying possessiveness and a static “isness” to relate “caught” and “bent” as self-contained small lines that eventually overlap into a kind of character framing, where “churning’s” is a witness to “learning’s” either being bent or having bent something itself. That slippery accountability feels like a mind framing its own processing instead of the external behaviors that result from such processing. The reader is to trust that both the possessiveness and more static “isness” happen as a single fluctuating path for reading those grammatical parts; essentially, both possibilities from grammar exist, but neither is dominant. They are not conclusive but they are procedural, truly a “coarsening / flux.”
Read it all at Jacket2.