The struggle in reviewing Stephanie Strickland’s Dragon Logic is the collection rejects traditional modes of defining. The text is an exploration of codes that are untranslatable and esoteric, which avoid the closure that is traditionally sought via the lyric. It is within this space the “I” hopes to discover the 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 four sections of the book constantly take on new trajectories and focus as they splinter towards new subjects and possibilities. The result is a constant evasion of conclusion. Amidst so much uncertainty, Strickland offers control through her deft use of language and sound interlacing each poem through the musicality of her language.
These poems explore the Sublime. However it is no longer nature that ruptures the mind’s ability to understand. The terror is the inability of humanity to comprehend the advancements of technology—TV, Internet, 24 hour news cycles, etc.—that are progressing beyond their origins as tools of convenience. Dragon Logic is a world where technology and inventions have become more real than their inventors. CAPTCHA which is a program designed to determine if a visitor to a website is a human or a Spam-Bot now acts to 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
In an attempt to define and place separations on human creations, the creations actually begin to erase the creators. This becomes the location of inverting. Our inventions become the dragons which the title references, beasts that demanded sacrifices so that a kingdom may be spared. The virgins have been replaced by with self-identity. The secret, a code that is obscured, is how the self can survive these monsters of our own creation that turns the physical into an abstract.
The 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 become the only method to give clarity and slay the dragons. The scientific becomes the site of emotion and of human experience. Here hints of Romanticism and the Pastoral appear envisioned through Quantum 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
Abstract science is the medium through which the emotional core of the poem appears. 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 deities and immortalized through their science. They retain their self-identity and become what the “I” of the poems attempts 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.