by Lucy Ives
Ahsahta Press, $18 (paper)
Though lyric in its form, Orange Roses is a poetic coming-of-age narrative that unfolds against the backdrops of college, California, cityscapes, and an American art conference. Explicitly influenced by the serial work of George Oppen, Ives takes accretion as her lodestar, moving fluidly from analysis to aphorism, concept to sonnet, and paragraph to fragment. “Language,” she writes in “Orange Roses,” the eponymous heart of the book, “since inorganic, is not suffused by time and does not ‘die,’ despite the expression. And yet without the depth of time, the possibility of sequence, there could be no meaning.” In the assertively mechanical “Early Poem,” Ives takes her directive literally, calling out her sentences by number as she lays them down. In “Picture,” she reverts to a knowingly simple (and beautiful) objectivist approach: “The cup of flame above / The refinery // Red floor of the landfill / By the yard of red and white / Cranes // Violet clouds / White plains.” “On Imitation” delineates her early thoughts about mimesis: “The question was not what can words say, but what can they show. Where the word evokes an image, it does some sort of work. But most of the time people are just talking about something or other.” Ives is a poet of aporia or lack, seeking to discover what exists by examining what is absent: poetry “is not a question of relating language to a person one is but rather of relating it to the exact person one is not.” Orange Roses is autobiography composed of its omissions.