Jackie Clark’s full-length debut, APHORIA, dwells in “the pleasure of creating condensation where none should be”—as if somewhat abashedly, the speaker of these poems confesses. As if poetry—a kind of condensation, a possible pleasure would be—could be—otherwise denied.
Clark’s APHORIA is fitted into three sections: WE GATHER AT NIGHT, THE CITY SALUTES ITSELF and I LIVE HERE NOW. Each section sequences through poems whose titles are empty/emptied parentheses. The emptying is the condensation and seeks to work out an “overflow” of stimuli.
the repository gathers
a falling in public
of private space engaged with surface areas
even with labels, each retelling discloses pent up attributes
it is vague
it is a story of my person, my compass
Between people, between things, Clark’s speaker navigates the visible and invisible constructs of urban anxiety and the speculative currency of selfhood.
An awareness in these poems is audienced—is reflected as the speaker suggests, “the idea of us / is my palm / held up parallel / to my face.”
Whatever is said in APHORIA is seemingly meant for, contained by or captured by the self. And not through embarrassing disclosure but rather by meditative self-awareness—as if every action is proof of self, every recorded gesture: a disclosure of the human condition.
These poems uncover and recover the universal spaces of desire, of relationships and of creatures imperfectly perceiving their habitat, in both physical and mental spaces.
Each day remains possible because a sense of the rest is lost.
What happens next is what happens.
The dilemma is ours and is as human as the inert thingness of calculating an experience: as rending/rendering meaning happens or not and, as one potentially impatiently awaits a revelation.
The urgency of these poems succeeds in an ability to offer the feeling-ness of a situation over the situation itself and act as markers of the credulity of experience.
Yet for Clark, loss of meaning is meaning. It is the possible poem. It is a way of negotiating experience.
If I dream of a boat,
what to make of the water,
an abbreviated holiday,
I dream of fields but even then know I am inventing symbols,
how much like an arrow,
revisitation is an emotional crime,
I dream of working,
I can ruin any affection,
not loose upon the crowd,
not looking for a familiar face,
avenue after avenue does not ask me to know them,
neither do you,
I look deep into people’s eyes when they are looking,
the other way,
a glimmer of invitation,
should we always assume that we are welcome,
for as long as we want to be welcomed?
And even though the “( )” titles and the poems that follow punctuate and ameliorate this sense of loss, an ever-present fatigue haunts them.
The constant stimuli of being present but also in the possible poem, remains constant “when the things at hand aren’t properly identified.”
Clark’s ambition resides in a willingness to ignore the fulfillment of closure, for the concreteness of the “I” to dissolve under its own weight, the weight of “individual minutes against the / obsessively staccato sensibility of the smallness / of an object moving through space and time.”
Aphoria is available from Brooklyn Arts Press
Douglas Piccinnini is the author of the forthcoming book of poems, Blood Oboe (Omindawn, 2015) and a novella, Story Book (The Cultural Society, 2014), as well as numerous chapbooks, including Flag (Well Greased Press, 2013) and ∆ (TPR Press, 2013) — a bilingual book of poems with Cynthia Gray and Camilo Roldán. His work has appeared or will soon appear in Antioch Review, Aufgabe, So & So, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Lana Turner, Vanitas, Verse, Vlak — among others. He is a winner of the 2014 SLS Contest for Poetry, judged by Dorothea Lasky.