- The Poetics of Ephemera
176 Pages; Print, $20.00
104 Pages; Print, $12.95
Sarah Ann Winn
Barrow Street Press
69 Pages; Print, $16.95
In Ephemera: A Manifesto (2017), Sophia Terazawa poses the question, "Written word or strike out, WHAT comes first?" In many ways, she prompts us to consider the writing process as a series of redactions, the allure of a text residing in all that cannot and will not be said. As readers, we try to grasp the narrative before it disappears again, to glimpse its arc before the light begins to fade. For Terazawa, it is this impermanence, and its ensuing silence, that allows the multitudes contained within a text, within a given story, and within the individual voice, to speak.
Three recent collections of hybrid work fully do justice to this complex relationship between voice, impermanence, and multiplicity. Kate Greenstreet's The End of Something, Sarah Ann Winn's Alma Almanac, and Karla Kelsey's Of Sphere consider narrative as a site of simultaneous gathering and unraveling, a tapestry that is unmade as quickly as it had appeared before us. Though vastly different in style and approach, these three writers share an investment in framing silence, and absence construed more broadly, as revelation, a mirror held to both the story and its reader reflecting back a "self flickering" and all those "things the body wanted to say."
This desire to frame silence as revelatory, and to create a narrative that is "loose knit," comes through most visibly in these writers' use of white space. As each collection unfolds, it is the fissures and the elisions that call meaning into question and allow possibility to accumulate. Though taking many forms, ranging from text and image project to lyric essay, these three books present the gaps between words as both wall and window, a "dark wondering" that equips the reader with wings.
Greenstreet's The End of Something begins its provocative elisions with the title, which refuses to name the lost object, setting the stage for an elegy that is ultimately unsayable. As the work unfolds, readers encounter a dreamscape comprised of both text and image, and photographs appear when they reach the limit of what can be said in language. Throughout the work, silence takes hold when the unconscious begins its work in us, whether or not we fully understand its message or intent.
Indeed, Greenstreet's speaker appears as a conduit, gripped by an alterity that speaks through her, a presence over which she can claim neither ownership or control. As she herself writes, "I don't follow the news. I have to follow something else." In this sense, Greenstreet's work is reminiscent of modernist poet H. D., who looked to the unconscious mind as both master and muse. And much like H. D.'s masterpiece Helen in Egypt (1961), Greenstreet's textual landscape is filled with dreams, which refract and intrude upon waking life. "Sometimes I see him out there," her speaker explains, "Here's the girl he wants to meet." What's striking here is the presentation of the speaker as outsider, othered within the terrain of her own psyche. In The End of Something, even the dreamscape is made strange again, a constant source of surprise and wonder.
Within the dream, as envisioned by Greenstreet, silence functions as both violence and a generative force, an inevitable "movement toward something." She writes, for instance, in "The Little Ghost,"
She's like I used to be,so quiet and good.
She waits for me.She wants to tell me things.
Greenstreet leaves the reader here, to wonder what is about to be revealed and what the speaker once was. Subtly and skillfully, she calls our attention to the narrative's elisions as a dismantling and a source of possibility, an invitation to the reader to build what has been taken down. By inviting the reader into the text, to collaborate, and to participate actively in...