Sunday, July 05, 2009

Brooklyn Copeland: Longing/Belonging


Longing/Belonging, the new chap from Brooklyn Copeland, is a collection of ten brief poems that seem to focus on the natural world as a metaphor for a troubled marriage. The edges we see in this collection are what could be called natural edges. A natural edge could be a number of different things, but in this collection natural edges manifest in three ways: as something broken or fractured in (raw, pastoral) nature; as some kind of remnant of life/death processes; or as anything odd or disfigured. Natural edges function here to represent a failed or failing relationship; as a way of expressing frustrated sexuality indirectly; and as a reflection of internal/cognitive discord. A look at some of the particular poems will help to elucidate what I am talking about, where natural edges are concerned. This is the seventh fragment in the piece:

A robin's egg, shocking
blue. Inside, the yoke is green
as snot. The egg did not
fall: it was pushed
from the eaves. Husband,
a nest is no
mere rustic thesis
to nail above
our apartment door.


The exquisite delicacy of these lines is reinforced by assonances and rhymes: robin's/shocking, not/snot, eaves/thesis. The yoke of the egg being likened to snot is, indeed, "shocking," and what gives the fragment its peculiar edge. Once the edge is in place, the dissonance of the situation (and the dissonant affect behind it) becomes clear. Eggs are a symbol of fertility; here, we see a cracked egg. There are overtones of waste and the squandering of natural resources, that seem to have a personal resonance. The "nest" functions on a dual level; it is something seen outwardly by the protagonist, and also something referred to indirectly, in a suggestive way. Whatever the protagonist is living through, it seems that the comfort and safety of a nest is inaccessible to her, something that either her husband is not providing or that she herself is unable to create; a tangent to Jordan Stempleman's crafting of a domestic landscape. This usage of eggs is a prime example of what Eliot calls an objective correlative, a concrete symbol that embodies an inward reality. What is surprising (as always) in Copeland is how deftly she manages to present her objective correlatives, how seamlessly interwoven they are in her constructs. Yet Longing/Belonging is quite laconic, and this is how it ends:

You aren't discouraged by how little
I have to say? Be furious,
instead. Be the winter
sun, the unlit white
flare. My heart's not where
I feel this little
towards you, for you've
shattered me back years.


The final three lines take us to a rather different locale, as we see the protagonist "a happy trauma shivering/ down Peru Street/ on my banana seat." Though this is not overtly stated, it seems like the happiness of the trauma has to do with the protagonist's ability to express herself. Notice that the Other never finds a voice; Copeland either silences him or does not deign to repeat the things he says. In Mary Walker Graham, this has to do with solipsism and self-contained sexuality; Stacy Blair leans more towards coyness; there is an element of both here, but there is more affective vulnerability at work with Copeland, a sense that a maintained silence is a way of keeping control (perhaps on/for both sides of the relationship equation.) In any case, the poet's sense of Longing/Belonging has much to do with finding ways to represent the reality of longing and the perceived inability to feel a sense of belonging in marriage. There is a bravery at work here, the courage to tell a certain kind of truth, not only with raw data but with imaginative imagery. "Be the winter sun" sounds less like a threat and more like a sort of resigned encouragement, the protagonist's way of being generous with someone who is not being generous back. The poems ends with a "shattered" protagonist "shivering," but awash in liberation. It is the achievement of Copeland's chap, its terse prosody, which shows us this deliverance into liberation.
 

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