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a (Trenchart: Tracer Series) by Sophie…
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a (Trenchart: Tracer Series)

by Sophie Robinson

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Robinson's experimental chapbook is no doubt intriguing. In the first section she employs a list technique, similar to Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, which is meant to catalogue either the speaker's or the person whom the speaker has recently lost's affects such as clothing and toiletries. The language tends to balance between ambiguity and almost sexual provocation, bringing to life a true sense of loss, especially when juxtaposed with photos of things mentioned within the section.

The second section lengthens the emotions and statements which are being made, but the words used don't always explicate the speaker's feelings, rather readers are shown fragments and thoughts and then asked to piece everything together because the speaker doesn't appear emotionally able. This enhances the feeling of abandonment and mourning alluded to in the foreword, especially as the reader progresses through the sequence of photographs where a young woman appears to be gazing at her hand, possibly reaching for something or meditating on the thought of touching someone.

Finally, the third section is a series of collages and images which feature objects, body parts, and cut-up. The subtle eroticism felt throughout the text continues into this section and is especially felt in images featuring a nude figure, bare legs, and an abstract shadow. There is no ending or final image which is meant to tie it all together. Instead, the chapbook merely concludes with the thought that, "it's so cruel to never be." (61).

As is mentioned in the afterword, these poems are about the "threat to a survivor's sense of self." Robinson isn't asking for sympathy, she isn't dealing with death or dead people. She is showing us what happens to the survivor when someone in her life dies, how it creates chaos, brings loss, and offers new possibilities of living. Her form enhances the experience of the text and it is hard to imagine any of the words without the images, therefore the success of her medium helps tie together a moving collection. One must wonder, however, how accessible the chapbook and its contents would be without the extensive foreword and afterword. That is the reason for my rating. While poetry need never been entirely accessible or explicated, there does need to be a way of understanding content without a how-to guide and the third section, at least, would feel rather disjointed and confusing without the insight provided in the afterword. ( )
  hovercraftofeels | Nov 18, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 193425410X, Perfect Paperback)

How do you trace death? What do you make of the useless objects left behind? Conjuring Cage, Stein, and Francesca Woodman, British poet Sophie Robinson documents the detritus of sudden loss.

Layering word and image, object and subject, the said with the unsayable, a is as Caroline Bergvall writes, "[A] work of mourning. Angry, torn, hardly daring to remember" — a textual performance of "love that dares to speak as queer."

a is published as part of the TrenchArt: Tracer Series, with a Foreword by Caroline Bergvall, an Afterword by Diane Ward, and collaborative visual art by Ken Erhlich and Susan Simpson.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:19 -0400)

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