By Michael Wasson
Linguistic torsion. There’s really no other way to put it.
Before I had even started reading Biswamit Dwibedy’s compelling debut, Ozalid, I flipped to the back of the book for the blurbs. Cole Swenson mentions, “we’re in unmapped territory.” Immediately, Ozalid had offered some form of curiosity to me, spurring me on to take a dip in its depths.
Let’s begin, though, at the title: Ozalid—a process in which type and graphics are duplicated onto translucent paper. When I was slated to review this book, the name itself had already drawn a simultaneous confusion and a fascinating intelligence.
The poems throughout seem to meet at a plane of space where language, at its core, is found at the time it recedes away. In doing so, Dwibedy’s poems flicker, flutter, dissolve, and interact with its almost bizarre language placement. The rippling white space therefore really shapes the book’s flow.
The poem “Vein,” for example, depicts what could be a human vein “[a]slant / against its / own / defined on / soft mud.” I’m thrown off, expecting to follow the path of the vein against its own. It’s own what? As readers, we’re dissembled right then and are pivoted into “defined on / soft mud.” The logic of the syntax and rhythm is torqued just enough that we’re redirected with the image of the vein still somewhere in our peripheral.
enough that perfect rain –
In the same poem, after our redirection, we can follow along like a lens that has found its focus. We see the development of footprints, equality, balance, a sort of superimposed image that has discovered signs of human remnants beneath its initial surface texture.
I think what Dwibedy has touched on is an intimate relationship with the strangeness of language and letters. Having touched at these accounts of language’s ever-present ephemerality, Dwibedy comes to terms as best he can:
The beauty of letters
to know them
love ends badly
In the middle of this poem, “Barely Touched,” the speaker says, “Anything could happen.” How precise. Anything can happen when dealing with creation and art-making. That’s the failure inherent in process. At all times, in life, in human wonder, we’re woven into a world of the living and dying—the dead and the newly born. So this is how that line haunts—because then at large Dwibedy is conscious to the bright, aperture-quick stains of suffering, of failure, of success weighed down by its uncertainty, its “unmapped territory” as Swenson fittingly gathered.
But also then the collection is a testament to how art is a process toward powerful discovery.
At the gut of this collection, however, there is always an air of mourning, and it’s not really until you slow down and hear the heartbreak within the speaker. Like the aesthetics of impermanence, Dwibedy’s takes on an impossibility, an almost but not quite, an attempt to pin down shadows in the harsh surge of light, only to see his poems’ experiences, and his readers’ as well, drenched in awe and grief.
Dwibedy offers us “Which the mind is a chain of pauses” at the end of Ozalid, almost as a way to reaffirm our entire course through the book. And even though this is expressive enough to sew us down, the final line of the collection mirrors my conclusive sentiment: “amazed across the way.”
Michael Wasson, nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho, earned his MFA from Oregon State University and his BA from Lewis-Clark State College. He received a Joyce Carol Oates Award in Poetry, and his work is included or forthcoming in Poetry Kanto, As/Us, Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Cutthroat, and elsewhere.