by Jackie Clark
Brooklyn Arts Press, $14.95 (paper)

The poems in Jackie Clark’s powerful, spare, and stealthy debut each take the same wordless title—“( ),” a pair of parentheses not so much empty as framing space for the intangible, for everything unsaid or unnoticed in between the stuff of daily life. These are the poems of an uncomfortable modernity overfull on both noise and boredom and “Ordinary folks doing / ordinary things inside their homes. // When I sleep, the cats sleep. // Each day remains possible because a sense of the rest is lost.” Clark is a quiet poet but not a retiring one. She watches from the storm’s eye, uncovering what is threatening and contagious about our existence. “Something really awful could happen at any moment,” she warns. These poems, so reflective of our contemporary exhaustion, are executed with impressive precision. But Aphoria isn’t all caution against the hollow and the hamster wheel; these are often weary, tender love poems, persevering despite the danger of the world and the disconnection and despair we sometimes feel. Clark writes: “the routine of posture, / routine of sweat, / this urgency escapes me, / I try to tell it how pleased I am to be right here, / to have seen the Polaroid, / one part memory house, / one part sweater.” Clark’s is a voice that refuses to join in the madness or be drowned out by it, and the beauty that results is a pleasure to read.