The struggle in reviewing Stephanie Strickland’s Dragon Logic is the collection rejects traditional modes of defining. Much like the theme of the collection the text is an exploration of codes which as untranslatable and esoteric reject the closure that is traditionally sought via the lyric. It is within this this space the I wants meaning, hopes to find and place contours about the self and the separation between internal and external. The boundaries of selfhood verse what acts to remove said individuality becomes a sight of fragmentation. Mirroring this, the poems are not linear and with the trajectory and focus splintering towards new subjects and possibilities. The result is a constant evasion of conclusion. Strickland offers control through her deft use of language and sound. The seven sections are interlaced and connected through the musicality of her language. Sound becomes a grounding by which an attempt to decipher occurs and forces the I to engage what is beyond itself.
These poems act as an exploration of a Sublime for the 21st century. It is no longer nature that defies the mind’s ability to understand instigating a terror. Instead, humanity finds itself unable place contours around the creations on technological advancement—TV, Internet, 24 hour news cycles, etc—that are meant ease life but have progressed beyond being the tools of humans. Dragon Logic is a world where technology and inventions have become more real than their inventors. CAPTCHA which test to determine if a Spam-Bot or a human is visiting the website now erode the distinction.
in the log-on Lab World structured from permissions where
who hangs at your space from your space’s erased from you
nor can you take your own movement for granted…
shift—time to be swept back to sea so typed in mistakenly
(no peregrine eye) randomly assigned CAPTCHA squiggle
Turing test box of twisted-letter text to tag her
This becomes the location of inverting. In an attempt to define and place separations on the creations, the creations actually begin to erase the creators. Our inventions become the dragons which the title references. These mythological beasts which needed sacrifices to allow a village or kingdom to survive at least in appearance. The virgins have been replaced by self-identity. The code obscures the answer to the question of how the self can survive these monsters of our own creation? Strickland understands that the inventions have turned the physical to an abstract.
he section Dragon Maps begins with a quote by Stanislaw Lem “everyone knows that dragons don’t exist…it does not suffice for the scientific mind”. Placing the dragons in categories of mythical, chimerical, and purely hypothetical Lem claims “They were all…nonexistent, but each nonexisted in an entirely different way”. This nonexistence that evades us, yet controls us can only be glanced at and talked around; it is here that abstract sciences of philosophy, mathematics, and Quantum Mechanics can slay the dragons. The scientific becomes the site of emotion and of human experience. Here hints of the Romanticism and the Pastoral appear. The physical world of trees and sky turns to the logical organization of the processes of theory.
after quantum mechanics
Nature went straight
all the possible states of any physical
object formed a linear space
archipelagoes of structure
fen full weedy fertile inexhaustible pod
of mathematical flowers
These abstractions of thought become the poem and the emotional core. The code-makers of these theories—such as Gödel, Schrödinger, and Yang—become mystics that avoid the advancing eradication of identity that Strickland’s poems are desperate to achieve. These individuals find themselves mythicized as the deities made immortal and defined through their science. They retain their self-identity and their humanness and become what the I and the poems attempt to speak with.
Strickland’s collection is a puzzle box for which no solution exists. Her poems demand re-reading as they constantly unfold with possibilities and new definitions. In refusing to define they offer the spaces that surround definition. The title highlights this uncertainty. Is Dragon Logic meant to question the logic of a belief in dragons? Is it a declaration of the reason put forth by dragons? Perhaps the title acts as juxtaposition between the mythical and scientific but does not answer which is real and which is fantasy. Belief and pre-conceived notions collapse. Strickland’s ability to prevent anything from being held as truth or dogma allows everything to become an object of inquiry in hopes a meaning can be found. She understands that shadows obscure the human and the world in which the human interacts. As a reader one should explore this world with her.
Dragon Logic is available from Ahsahta Press
Chris Caruso is a poet with MFA’s from Rutgers Newark and Boise State University. He is fascinated with the limits and transgressions of borders/boundaries especially the margins between words and images. Chris is currently working on Fairy Tales interpreted through the Fibonacci sequence and a poetry collection that juxtaposes the anxiety bound in artistic creation against American Anxiety Post 9/11. Chris is also in the process of creating a blog to host a yearlong conceptual poetry/visual art project.