“What black butterfly, voiceless with its fourth-person narration / is the real world?” Julie Carr’s poem asks, in Think Tank, just out by Solid Objects. This is poetry of the temporal, witnessed through the spatiality offered by the window of the quotidian and domestic (“… Morning’s not / measured nor meant / just assured and rude in its lack of regard …” (10)), of parenthood and chairs, and “all, all” (“Windows blaze, all, all—the train jumps its tracks” (1)). Carr brings “all, all” by way of fragmentation, because there is no other way, and she knows this; poetry is this. As Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “Poetry occurs where language, contrary to all expectations, gives way.” By way of amazing observation and diction of capture and release, along with her use of the empty space of the page, Carr’s poems allow for what Jean-Luc Nancy calls the “syncope of language.” Caesurae reign supreme—at least as supreme as her words.
The homosocial world of women needs men, just as the homosocial world of men needs women. This slim book is full with women: “The beginning of a woman with which another woman / with which another woman with which another woman / begins. Meter and mop. Measure and talk. Nipple and tongue ” (16). There a few men, husband and son, who offer up relational roles for women which other women cannot provide. Time and times lapse in these pages, syntax flames and melts: “narrative illusion breaks down metaleptically / transforming expectations of early and late” (29), and beautiful images break and bleed: “These ejaculations we return to: // bread in the sun, oil in the water / glass in the foot / blood rouses blood” (28).
But what is full inside these pages is knowingly on the brink of emptying: “The suspension of quotidian structures make me / barren as a mollusk, remorseful as a rake” (63), and what is still hollow endows possibility with its meaning. Such is life: it begins: “But the baby’s just earth, earth and the ocean, the swirled together / blank” (57). And in this beginning, we search for things to hold onto, with which to relate, things that by their nature cause our nature to emerge: “Babies sleep hugging animals. At their doorway: endlessness” (9). What is routinized, can be undone, writes Carr: “deroutinized temporalities abide in the arms for a girl” (63): for the arms of a girl can hold all, all, and in all is variability. Carr’s poetry understands the flow and the syncope, however; Carr understands the sensation of passing out: “any talk of transition is simply exaggerated / Sudden is all is all” (74).
Carr opens this collection with an epigraph from Dickinson: “if all, is all, / How larger be?” and though all the banal minutia incorporated into her poems assists in creating “all,” it is this larger question of the “how the larger be?” which patches this book together in a loosening born of letting go: “These experiences are absolutely unwriteable which is why I am putting / them here” (55). Life’s ineffability and the grammar of experience are things at odds, yet Carr brings them forth with clear ambiguity and in-your-face innuendo.
Carr’s writing has always been concerned with questions, such as those about violence and terrorism in 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta Press, 2009). In Think Tank, the interrogation abides a structure which intimates that there is less at stake, less urgency. But though this book feels softer, its scope, as its epigraph suggests, is wide to the point of an unknown horizon, and in this endlessness, Carr asks: “Who’s breathing whom here?” (51).
This inhalation as exhalation is, as Carr posits, a question of conspiring. We all do it—everyday. We conspire to get through the days. Men and women, women and women, women and children, men and children, children and children. We are all Sisyphean heroes, but Carr continues to attempt the heroic mission of poetry: to manifest the fourth-person narrator, poet as translator, always: “So I will climb and climb in the dust all day / the soul is round // Now, for the translation” (74).
Mullin resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Bill, and her dog, Beatrice (no, not named after Dante’s Beatrice, but the divine French actress Dalle). Mullin is currently a media and communications doctoral candidate at European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.