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Petals of Zero, Petals of One
by Andrew Zawacki
Talisman House, $13.95 (paper)
The “high-volt deadbolt barbwirespeak” and “pirate copied patois” of Andrew Zawacki’s third collection, Petals of Zero, Petals of One, uploads landscape into language so that “the exterior turns internal.” These poems ricochet at dizzying speeds: the book’s three long sequences include “Georgia,” a Philippe Soupault-inspired apostrophe to “everything’s dirty and doubled” in Zawacki’s “alasless,” “vowellewd” adopted home state; “Arrow’s shadow,” a bionic hymn of “modemsong and binaural breath”; and “Storm, lustral: unevensong,” which “swims ahead of an / undertow” to watch “birds filibuster a poplar.” But, like the work of Louis Zukofsky and William Carlos Williams that Zawacki cites, they often cohere via tenderness, believing “the heart is an ideogram.” This interest in the “phylum of love” isn’t trite, both because of Zawacki’s intelligence (“to the ergo- / nomic echo / -lalia hopscotching dis- / junc / -ture and junk”) and because, like good surrealism, it is motivated by desire our world is hard-pressed to match. I love watching Zawacki press hard in return. Here, the propulsive stammer of “if only”—“if only the electric lines / if only the birds if / only the birds / sequencing”—forges illuminating transformations: “if only the wrens as bottle rocket / as pinball eave to eave / the morning’s gramophone and booting up.” When conventional sense breaks down, these illuminations shimmer more brightly, as though true perception requires disintegration, like “rings advancing radaresque in a pond where a pebble // snapped the surface.” This theme is also method: the book’s enjambment, “in true-or-false- / tto,” crackles fiercely (“language is silence’s stop / -gap // its umbra and opening umbrel- / la / la / la / la / la”). Such agility, “rapunzeling up on a fidgety draft,” acts out Zawacki’s variation on Zukofsky’s famous linguistic formula (“Lower limit speech / Upper limit music”): “from upper level lower / us down . . . / to lower level levitate.”
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