by Sophie Robinson
Les Figues Press, $15.00 (paper)
Sophie Robinson’s first full-length collection features material from an impressive gathering of writers and artists (including foreword and afterword by poets Caroline Bergvall and Diane Ward, respectively) as well as formal elements recalling others (Gertrude Stein, photographer Francesca Woodman), creating a reading experience that feels both peculiarly allusive and particular. In “Interior,” the book’s first section, the pairing of object (e.g., “KNEE-LENGTH POLKA DOT SOCK”) and non-referential description (“My shoulder playful and turned away toward the lake / between your knees”) is an obvious nod to the experimentation of Stein’s Tender Buttons. While some of the pairings can be overly abstract, each leaves a clear impression—of absence: “FINE-TOOTHED COMB W/HANDLE” is defined as “My obtuse love left behind,” “MAROON LEGWARMER,” as “Where are you gone quick and cruel.” What is explored, then, is the ephemeral nature of presence rather than the validation of a solid object through “accurate” definition. Given this, it is unsurprising that a draws upon Woodman’s work, which also explores how we are haunted by what is absent. The titles of a’s three sections—“Interior,” “Geometries,” and “Disorder”—are taken from Woodman’s Some Disordered Interior Geometries, and Robinson includes several of Woodman’s images in “Disorder,” whose collaged visual and textual elements might have benefited from a clearer reproduction. If the book’s dedication and foreword draw attention to personal loss, Robinson has emphasized elsewhere that a explores “the concepts of death, mourning and loss [rather] than [the] account of my personal experience of those things.” a’s language articulates mourning less through hyperbolic personal account and more through hyperbolized language: “Losses what we losses remember losses all over / losses ourselves.” “Geometries,” the second and least allusive part of the book, wonderfully shapes the emotions of rage and grief through loose sonnets, written in a rapid, feverish language: “Beauty is nothing is nothing is a / gently disgusting residue of all / that burps and smiles.” Although a borders on elegy, it retains an elusive elegance beyond the reach of categorization.