Thursday, February 7, 2013

Grant Jenkins's Smart Pain and Beauty in NUMBERS

Grant Matthew Jenkins makes digital and animated poetry (    ) as well as print-based artifacts. His previous books are a collaboration with Cheryl Pallant, Morphs (Cracked Slab, 2009), and his own Joy of God and Other Series (Blackbird, 2003). His Ph.D. in theory and poetics is from Notre Dame.

Yes, he is a smart, innovative writer. That does not take away from the passion embedded in his neo-archaeological pieces in the chapbook Numbers (Tulsa: Living Arts Press, 2012). He litters pages with suggestion. I cull the clues for familiar shards and match them to my own losses. I see white spaces among the lines— voids that will remain when time erases my presence.

Titles in the chapbook suggest slippage of forms: “Three Misreadings”; “Monochrome #4,” omitting numbers 1-3; “Ten Ways To Write a Sonnet,” which subverts the idea that a “sonnet” is a known formula; and “Five Easy Pieces,” which is not composed of easy pieces at all: This final section inverts the second half of the poem, so it is upside down on the page (I remember a toggle somewhere in word that flips text). The bottom half of the poem does not exactly mirror the top half, but rather is a Kantian incongruence like matched but opposing mittens.

“Monochrome #4” begins with loss: “Just count out / the hours of aching” (section 1). It continues with grieving for the paradoxical, as in “your yes a goodbye” (section 2) and “how much they loved her / til she died” (section 3). Sharp images add to the sense of incompletion, as in the “blue haze of crystal vases” of the  first section, with its sound-facets of zee (and near- zee) echoing against each other, as well as the visual  “blue” overlay on glass. The work is its own slab of reality. From Monochrome #4:


Just count out

 the hours of aching

 dedication to the mission of

distraction, the blue haze of crystal vases

with wax
flowers held in

the embassies of waiting
rooms where scarves choke

the oak coat
tree in the name of theology