Composing Nature Decomposing

  • Ken Belford (Author)
    Decompositions. Talonbooks
  • Mark Truscott
    Nature. BookThug
Reviewed by Travis V. Mason

Occasionally, a book appears for review that wants not to be reviewed. Ken Belford’s Decompositions, full of stanzas dense as rainforest understory, and Mark Truscott’s Nature, full of lines sparse as recently clear-cut fields, want not to be defined as poetry in any conventional sense. They ask, in uncertain terms, to be something else. So, what is a reviewer to do?
Don’t trust these books. One is full of words that trace erase a life’s singular trajectory, the certainties of certain narratives. One is full of space that circles words the way a doughnut (a cruller, say) makes holes. One reveals nature’s cruelness. One, crueller, revels in nature in/as language. One ’I’ wonders Who / says good writing conveys / a strong sense of place? One ’I’ wonder[s] / if the / space this / creates will / hold it. One, you see, decomposes lyric narrative, prosing it up, posing alternative ecological paradigms as personal history. One, you see, lacks composure, belies a calm position from which to, say, essay. But lack, you see, is the point.
Decomposition is nature: history.
One (Decompositions) ends strong, if strong eludes autobiography to plant seeds of arboreal wisdom: the cottonwoods grumble / and the spruce whistles its gliding pitch in the time before a rain. Decomposition: consider the consequence of reading / a poem to be unpredictable. Suspect your previous dependence on tools and compose yourself: It seems / the acceptance of risk is a science. But risk, you see, is the point. What risk? Poetry and plants. Words and weeds. Poetry can make something more / dangerous than its parts, and it’s probably a good idea to burn the GE crops. To leave words, as leaves leave trees bending in wind, to cause to be, and come apart again, is what we’re left with.
Nature is decomposition: entropy.
One (Nature) ends strong, too. If strong strengthens what comes, ineluctably, before. Before: words afloat in/as doughnut holes, making space for/as nature as/in language. Infinity:
Others bother with specifics. Numbers are specific, though. Specific what? Exactly. During: that this and that that inhabit, generally, that page and this page. Not this page. Not that page, either. Pay attention. After: Words mark, occur, abut on the way to forming and failing. Nature?
One is Laurel. One is Hardy. One is Bob. One is Doug. One is Fat Man. One is Little Boy. One is dangerous. One is danger. One is dang. One is da. One is fort. One is fortress. One is buttress. One is but.
One suggests: Many critics seem to be / disembodied drovers teaching / image recognition. One suggests: a word, the word, these words risk composing a thought, the thought that begins, that starts to falter, to falter, to falter. Don’t trust this review.

This review “Composing Nature Decomposing” originally appeared in 21st-Century Poetics. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 210-211 (Autumn/Winter 2011): 250-251.

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