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colorado review 152 Equivocal, by Julie Carr Alice James, 2007 reviewed by Meg Barboza Equivocal begins with a curious epigraph by Coleridge: “The quiet circle, in which Change and Permanence co-exist, not by combination or juxtaposition, but by an absolute annihilation of difference . . . Change without loss—change by perpetual growth.” This specific reconciliation becomes Equivocal’s poetic imperative. In the dualistic system of Change and Permanence , Carr finds a form to push against, a hypothesis for living. Writing to and against Coleridge and other philosophers, Carr’s poems also rely on a lyric attuned to the various tones of daily life. In this elegant system Carr discovers less a pattern, more a dualism, and her poems explore the duplicity this breeds in the assumption of roles, language, and the orders of knowledge. In Carr’s cosmology the poem balances the philosophical concerns of the outer world with the action of the domestic inner world. Lyric associations extend over Carr’s external source material and the events of the domestic sphere, uniting the two. Carr’s focus on the private-domestic is punctuated by epigraphs and insertions from Emerson and Cavell, among others. Equivocal ’s poems vacillate between the rote behaviors of the domestic I and exterior expressions of intellectualism, highlighting a profound dissonance. These domestic and intellectual orders create a framework for understanding the mind—a creature both public and personal in its service and purpose: I grieve that grief can teach me nothing: Emerson, choosing tautology to reveal emptiness. These interior-exterior meditations undergird the life of the mother. As one goes about the day, the convergence of private and public needles at the mind, which is already busy assembling and disassembling orders of meaning: “Why does the philosopher call the time of the now / the technical expression of messianic time.” The now is Carr’s perfect expression of the known; the now envelopes the speaker through its continuity with the world at large: past, future, private, public, domestic, national. And this truth supplies a candor that disarms the insular lyric: 153 Book Notes Emerson says the private thought is the universal but it must never be construed as the universal lest we kill its difference. She’s made the bed, stretching the sheet over the blankets, which doesn’t work. . . . “Technique,” from Latin textere, means “to weave”: The tapestry of now is endless, would be another way to translate the philosopher The tension between the private world of the I and the larger world as it is intellectualized is made tighter still by Carr’s refusal to give over wholly to that intellectualization. Thus, “Private griefs become public when theorized: I cannot get it / nearer me.” Carr’s world is one of (re)learning within the experiences of the now. Coming to know oneself by the boundless now means one must continually emerge into being, into the role of the moment . The moment is the order. The gauzy totality of the now allows everything to occur at once. One is both child of and mother to the parent. One is a parent to one’s child. And so on. The lyric propels its speaker through a collection characterized by association and duality, not immutable order. At worst some of Equivocal’s poems are too distant, too deeply rooted in their particular orders. At best that same stubborn rooting produces precisely the right poem. “Iliadic Familias (with insertions from Homer)” stands out as the opus of Carr’s roving project. This prose litany of personal and Homeric history epitomizes Carr’s sense that the specific sequence of our lives can be mirrored perfectly by another distant being: My mother used to cry in the car while driving. This was terrifying to me in the back seat. Not only was she responsible for my safety, but I could not see her face. And now I cry in the car while driving. and with Homer, colorado review 154 My mother used to cry in the car while driving to stop the sorrowful fighting. This was terrifying to me in the back seat. We shall fight again afterward, until the divinity chooses between us. Not only is she responsible for my...


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