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Scott Bentley reviews

Perspective Would Have Us
by Erica Carpenter

68pp. Burning Deck. US $14. 1-886224-76-5 paper. Available at

This review is about 11 printed pages long.

The Calculus of Intuition:

the Lyric Arch in Erica Carpenter’s Perspective Would Have Us

… and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark: And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off; so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
(Genesis 9:11)

As if through a prism, thought. What is not prose is not verse, simultaneous; constant engagement in parataxis, play: Lyric. A contemporary lyric done masterfully in this sense can give voice to the often contradictory, paradoxical nature of experience, piercing. Is it hyperbolic to then claim that Perspective Would Have Us, Erica Carpenter’s first full-length book after her chapbook, Summoned to the Fences (Etherdome, 2002), is the finest lyric poetry I’ve read in years, maybe ever (and certainly since the 1996 Tender Buttons publication of Jennifer Moxley’s Imagination Verses) as its impermeability absorbs entirely? More to the point, I’m not certain I understand this book completely, and I enjoy it ever more because of my doubt, for while Carpenter orders up the pages, I am, yes, deliciously had in the book’s illusion. What Joan Retallack has done for criticism — I’m thinking especially of the wild, complex collection, The Poethical Wager — Carpenter with these poems has now done with the lyric, as this book is a gorgeous, ravishing gamble.

To situate the book in something of a context, we find here a near religious conviction that only writing maintains:

                                 … This
is the philosophical interior
of my inquiry — that absorption & impermeability
are the warp & woof of poetic composition —
an ‘intertwining’ or ‘chiasm’ whose locus
is the ‘flesh’ of the word.
(Bernstein 63)

I’ll take Charles Bernstein’s notion here to suggest in Carpenter’s book an exploration of the beautiful in the ugly, the ancient in the contemporary, the articulation of a voiced silence, which all reach a chiasmus in the lyric. Understand, this collection of 68 pages divided into five sections (the first of three poems, the second of seven, the third and fourth of six, and the last  — entitled ‘Six Views from Capri’ — made of two poems) commands a sense of the number like a Holy Scripture of a kind fundamental to, say, the study of Kabala. Except here we find a cipher, the mystic argument at the center of civilization’s city, so we chamfer its edges with whatever dumb and busted hope in language we can summon to devise despite the ineluctable calculus.

As we, say, end our reading of  ‘Six Views’ we may find ourselves chuckling at the dramatic irony in some of Carpenter’s lines, lines like ‘… here we have/no confidence in sectionals’ (66). These poems win the reader’s attentions and a place to show — breaking bounds within the wide expanses — crossing the finish:

                      … across the order
(of a table) birds themselves
resembling nothing more
than cardinal number threes.
(‘Dear Paris’ 28)

With mainly quatrains, tercets, couplets — what seem to stand for paragraphs, even sonnets — this text uncovers the sun (eclipsed by the moon’s surface) for seconds at a time in patterns of intimate knowing: Newton’s astronomy, a fig leaf: ‘… the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and she sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance’ is how in The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes describes a poet’s attention to the making of a text that is neither too narrative nor too disjoint, too representational nor too abstract but quivers on the bridge between a certain understanding and the pleasure taken in a naked search, arresting (10). A chiasmus forged of pine compressed, the blood of palms, anklets, lashed to the stake, Adam’s rib. One of two… and then some, handsome sums — reeling in the mathematics of the temporal, the only catch to navigate the corporeal. Allusion becomes us as we read.

One thinks of the first two lines of Yeats’s ‘Sailing to Byzantium’: ‘That is no country for old men. The young/In one another’s arms, birds in the trees… ’ and then the rest of the book’s architecture: archival in series, an achievement that means to name the crisis of a culture on the brink. There’s a war on, corporal; lift up your Rand McNally and muster. A non-linear representation in engagement of metaphor in written expression. We think perhaps of the work of Barbara Guest, but recalling an exact line from any poem seems a challenge, for as Guest  herself makes invitation: ‘These are ghosts, not words; they are the ephemera that surround and decorate the mind of the poet, a halo rescued from life’ (‘Mysteriously Defining’ 85). As is the case when reading Guest, we recognize a terrifying sexiness in the construct of Carpenter’s difficulty as we re-arrange the furniture of our perceptions and chase around these pages, saved.

Not to give the wrong impression here. These poems aren’t quite reminiscent of, say, Susan Howe’s oeuvre of difficulty in fragments and antiquated spellings that emerge from her disparate pages as would bone and pottery shards on an archaeological dig; yet, these poems as elegantly combine the Ancient with the immediate, the unpronounced, promises broken, dawns. We read with grace the discovery of a geologist, paleontologist: assembled memories, woven stories, x-rays, potsherds. Say, a Post Modern wor(l)d of loss, without things (as understood by Pound) and with but simulacra of anything ‘real,’ the poem becomes our slain attempt to forge out of apprehension the remains: alchemy, product launch.

These poems thus give us a perpetually ‘… beautiful balance between the hidden and the open’ (Guest ‘Wounded’ 100). God needs the humans as much as the heavens, crashing, need a crusted earth: mending, the warp and weft; come gathering. These poems’ solid command of the reader’s attention results from Carpenter’s mastery during the attempt to realize that ‘Ideally a poem will be both mysterious (incunabula, driftwood of the unconscious) and organic (secular) at the same time’ (Guest ‘Reason’ 20). I’ve got a crush.

In two essays from Joan Retallack’s The Poethical Wager in which, to criminally summarize a fascinatingly complicated set of notions, she discusses the differential equations that comprise our society’s ‘increasingly busy linguistic intersections,’ she writes:

Poetry, as chronically blurred genre, can demonstrate just how busy [are society’s ‘linguistic intersections’] by operating simultaneously from multiple perspectives, in multiple dimensions, in multiple languages that draw on the inherent ambiguities, cross-references, polyglot intercultural vectors of all languages in today’s electronically intimate world.
(‘Scarlet’ 104)

And still... ‘Our best possibilities lie in texts,’ like Carpenter’s, ‘where the so-called feminine and masculine take migratory, paradoxical, and surprising swerves to the enrichment of both, /n/either, and all else that lies along fields of limitless nuance’ (‘:Re:’113). That is to say, any institutions kept numb past the prime of its constitution in the conditional, falters, unkempt.

The testimony: Carpenter’s instants to resist in all aspects of the book a stance in Logos, forgotten. Take, for example, the book’s cover from a painting by Jeff Swanson: ‘Passenger Pigeon with Match,’ which mirrors the swan song of the book’s bird conceit, a dove, and in its beak, to stem the tides of water, a branch of olive across the pages. Pale blue against grey, the sketch a palimpsest fled a diagonal shift. All the lines are tied, interlocutor. Now, in this time of war, we read the poem, ‘Ask the Phoenix’:

how long, to travel
into one death
and find another,

We may note the collapse of culture, the frock of history on the reveal. Every evening on The News Hour the list goes on, neither sudden nor expected. Let’s go to the flicks. What goes missing? Covered up, the scandal finds the Emperor richly clothed. Arise from the ashes: The cardsharps gambol again and against, teetering on the tip of ecstasy, conceived. Carpenter translates experience and promises to ‘Tell Everyone/We Shall Enjoy It’ (45). May flecks of Sappho’s words survive in flocks: the goose flesh of your skin on mine, flux.

We are shown the bush; it’s burning. Dive bomb the look of the book on the page as it summons you to court, romance, despite your best efforts to scan the passages — sources to desire, framed — as broken lines across a screen, unlock:

that monster dying on the beach
is not the same as an American
film actress, and in differing
exceeds the size of life.
(‘Sweet Poems’ 37)

This is Hollywood, a battle for continents as we drown under increased exposure: ‘O what world is this’ (Six Views’ 61). The drawers, dropped. The ship begins
                                                                                                                            to list
             while we make headway. At once, any attempt to fix upon a single genre fails: The first section of the book begins with an epistle, ‘Dear A,’ an apostrophe; the legerdemain of conversation, call-and-response. And what is the response? Disparate pieces sung in concert, desperate shuffling on deck.

* * * * *

Let us then turn our attentions more specifically to just a few poems from the collection as a whole in an attempt to illustrate with a rather quick analysis a range of the lyric in response to that primary epistle, “Dear A,” and the unsolved equation of the three other epistles that we find in each of the book’s sections (except the last): ‘Dear ____,’ ‘Dear X,’ and ‘Dear Y.’ Think of three points on a line segment. The two most extreme points of the line segment represent two poles of lyric while the poem at point zero represents a lyric medium. We will examine three poems at these three points.

First, we’ll examine ‘Birds at Heliopolis’ as an example of one extreme: the book’s most elegant of lyrics. It all depends on one’s perspective, of course; but I’d argue that this is a poem that works in conversation with ‘Dear ____,’ a poem in which the reader is invited to fill in her own name at the salutation. Of particular interest to begin our investigation, the speaker in ‘Dear ___’ calls out with these lines:

I’m fully functional in terms and really fine.
Even tonight it must be obvious,
having started several novels, to conclude
with our beginning… .
(ls. 9 -11, p. 25)

The first statement establishes our confidence in the poet’s ‘chops,’ for despite any potential doubts the reader may have, she’s not just passable at what she does but completely, ‘fully functional’ as first evidenced, for example, by the alliterative use of the letter ‘f’ throughout the line. We see here a common desire amongst the lyric: Approach the event horizon of music.

Further, Carpenter appropriates colloquialisms from quotidian speech, the phrase ‘in terms’ (as in the rather lawyerly ‘In terms of X, Y is true… .’) but as the speaker only includes the first half of the phrase ‘in terms,’ the reader receives a terrible joy from hearing the echo of the colloquialism while at the same time being let into the speaker’s almost private joke of celebrating the poet’s skill which she describes as ‘really fine,’ a description which puts the reader on most unstable ground as a result of the fact that ‘fine’ jokingly describes at once a condition of stable adequacy and sublime perfection.

Next, readers find themselves inside a kind of absurd combination of a Begging the Question fallacy in which a debatable subject is treated as if there is no debate, the claim of the argument repeated as the evidence for the claim, and a Post hoc (ergo propter hoc), in Latin ‘because of this therefore because of this,’ with which the speaker describes an absurd cause/effect relationship.

As the speaker ends line 10 with ‘it must be obvious,’ the reader begins to wonder what it is exactly that is so obvious; but the very gesture of claiming something as obvious begins to put the reader on edge, the reader wondering what has gone missing, as we fall victim to the first fallacy. Then the thought trails off as we’re interrupted by a parenthetical clause, ‘having started several novels,’ and then the lines continue with ‘to conclude/with our beginning’ and the reader is left wiggly, wondering just exactly what is beginning and/or concluding. Does the conclusion of the speaker’s narrative cause the beginning or the other way round? Here, Carpenter sublimely uses the syntax to build a frame with which she alludes to a kind of rigid Classical reasoning. We feel as if a kind of reasonable statement is being made, but the individual diction choices within that syntactic frame hold no particular relevant meaning, particular words acting more as place-holders inside the utterance, setting up absurd linguistic traps in which the reader may wiggle with desperate, masochistic pleasure as ‘Dear ____’ ends and we perpetually insert ourselves as beginning readers, casting ourselves into the written mold of belletristic recipient, words ceasing to function as representatives of information, instead the machinery of the work sounding off, breaking the silence, at once enticing and besting the reader, just because it can.

Now, let us proceed to the response: ‘Birds at Heliopolis’ (29). The title of this grand lyric of 17 lines, all couplets and tercets, alludes to something, to something Classical, but we’re never quite sure what that is. This poem, paradoxically, functions as a kind of précis for lyric construction, arguing that the lyric must at once be ‘[s]ubject to instance’ and ‘substance/weight’ (ls. 3-4). In other words, the lyric poem ought occupy some territory between, some nether space. The poem goes on: ‘where are said breath, flight, always the earthbound element,’ here connecting the ethereal with the concrete, arguing that the ethereal in the lyric ought arise from the real; but then the poem ironically takes back that assertion in the next line made of a simple two-word juxtaposition: one, a word from the idiom of logic and rhetoric, ‘claims;’ the other, perhaps the most often ethereal and fleeting of human experiences, ‘love.’ The result: ‘clams love’ (l. 7). The effect here is a kind of slippage, a kind of friction resulting from the rather unlikely juxtaposition of these two words. And what makes such juxtapositions so enticing, so noticeable in the poem, arises from something central to western thought.

In Ancient Greek, interestingly, the word ‘διατριβε,’ the word from which we get the English ‘diatribe,’ has a rather erotic connotation as it means ‘to rub between,’ suggesting an erotic pleasure derived from the process, the struggle, of flirting back and forth with such ironic, paradoxical utterances as ‘claims love,’ which can never reach any kind of grammatical stasis, the poet’s language remaining perpetually on the make; for, where, especially when considering the enjambment in ‘… the earthbound element/claims love,’ is the subject and where the object? Fun, isn’t it?

This play of the grammar, the play back and forth between the Ancient and the contemporary, between the ethereal and the concrete, is the raison d’etre of this poem (and maybe this book) as it teaches us to make our own lyric. ‘Heliopolis,’ apart from sounding like a mixture of ‘helicopter’ and ‘metropolis,’ creating in the title a lovely juxtaposition then with the image brought about by the use of the word ‘birds,’ is, at once, the name of an Ancient Egyptian city that was long ago ransacked for its treasures and the name of a favela in contemporary São Paulo, Brasil.

A favela is in itself a phenomenon of tremendous slippage in Brasil, a system of invisible non-cities within the concrete inner-workings of Brasilian society. The poorest of Brasil’s urban poor live in these favelas, these invisible yet hugely prominent shanty towns made of trash, adobe and used cardboard erected almost vertically on the sides of hills with black tape and corrugated metal, contriving untaxed communal power bases from which these poor may then function. Brasil’s flocking crime rate comes in the main from the favelas, about which we have heard a great deal in the spring and summer seasons of 2006 as São Paulo’s gangs have swarmed out and for days at a time taken over the city with firearms and explosives. In the favela itself a hierarchical system of power operates, the individual or family residence moving up nearer the top of the hill as a result of having gained power through the spread of violence and fear. We find favelas in any of Brasil’s major cities, but in Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha, the city’s most impressive favela, which I have seen many times, keeps expanding, nearing the freeway, the ‘real’ neighborhood of the taxpayer.

At this point let me depart on a tangent to describe my first freeway-flying experience with Rocinha, for I believe that doing so will help to elucidate one of Carpenter’s central arguments in this book: There is awesome, lyric beauty in the ugly.

Rocinha. It’s a breathtaking thing to behold. From a helicopter it looks like a million paper-back books dumped to the ground off the shelf. It ought to be declared by someone another wonder of the world. This favela, like nearly all favelas, is built on a hillside, creating a sort of honeycomb-like structure. But this hillside is steep, sheer, and massive. And the favela comes right down to the freeway. Think of a honeycomb the size of, say, Niagara Falls. Each hexagon in the honeycomb is a dwelling, each thatched and strewn, one after the other, almost endlessly. As we ascend the hill, the building materials become more bedrock: plaster, brick, wood, and even some glass. At the top of the favela the residents have electricity and running water but no sewer system. In familiar design, those at the top control the struggle of the rest of the community, the folks at the bottom having nothing but a roof.

As we passed the favela from the freeway, and my driver surreptitiously rolled up the windows to keep out the stench, we could see that this favela comes right down to a walking bridge over the freeway, a walking bridge which then adjoins a tunnel that becomes in one of the great postmodern uses of architectural space of all time one of Brasil’s most venerable universities, PUC. Thus, the favela and the university are nearly side-by-side, one becoming another. Usually, a favela is separated from the rest of the world by a kind of soft border — a lagoon, a freeway, a river. This is sort of true in this case as well, but the lines really collapse. And, yes, the marker that suggests the border between the favela and the university, between the favela and the rest of civilization is — and I’m serious here — a high-rise Sheraton hotel. We have the favela, the Sheraton, a connecting tunnel and then the university with the freeway just below. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

To pay this shrine to dramatic irony what it’s due, let’s hope that either you are from, have been to, or that you’ll have the opportunity to go someday yourself to see it before the spread of the impending uprising undoes the buckles on fantastic Brasil. And, one can in fact visit. The police pay the residents to not cause any havoc on a particular day so that tourists can then seemingly defy gravity to ascend the streets and narrows of the favela to see the bees at work. At the bottom of the favela are streets wide enough for a bus, which then narrow into steep single lanes wide enough for a small car, which then narrow down to alleys wide enough for a moped, which then narrow down to straight up walking paths, trails upward to the top. I don’t know how far up the tours go. The guy at the top apparently has working relations with the police, giving part of his drug earnings to the head of the police to stave off raids in response to gang attacks like the ones that have rocked São Paulo in these most recent days of July, 2006.

As we drove later that night back toward the suburbs of Rio, after spending the day as tourists at Pão de Açucar, Ipanema and Copacabana, after having been nearly asphyxiated by the exhaust from the cars that have no clean air equipment to mitigate the fumes, after moving through the tunnels with malfunctioning ventilation systems, the darkness was falling. All at once, breaking out of the tunnel, up ahead was a sight so astonishing that night that the memory of it, even now, thrills me: In its monstrosity of twinkling lights Rocinha shimmered as if Tinkerbelle had flown into the Messiah’s Christmas tree and every child’s fantasy suddenly became concrete in a giant, ogling instant.

I must reiterate here that while I have no direct experience with the favela of Heliopolis, the word used in Carpenter’s poem, I do have a certain first-hand experience with the favela system of Brasil vis-à-vis Rocinha, and the description within these paragraphs I hope begins to reveal in a palpable manner the ugly beauty that so takes Carpenter.

On page 42 of Carpenter’s text we next come to a poem: ‘Fragment: It’s No Use.’ This poem, I’ll suggest, is the ugliest in the collection (yet it’s probably the most syntactically interesting) and I find it a thing of great beauty, beauty in the ugly: the lyric. The entire poem, which stands at the opposing end of the line segment from ‘Birds at Heliopolis,’ is a tiny lyric of four tercets, a cut-and-paste object of probably found language. This poem, which functions in juxtaposition to the epistolary poem ‘Dear X,’ leaves perhaps the most unanswered questions of any piece in the entire collection. As we read in ‘Dear X’: ‘No one’s discovered how we must expand/into the shrinking of the world’ (ls. 8-9, p. 40). I’ll quote the entirety of ‘Fragment… ’ here:

It’s no use Mother I
Mother can’t finish my
It’s no [soft] I
Weaving. You my can’t
my [killed] blame
Aphrodite, weaving

Soft as she is (has almost
[soft] me with [killed]
for that —

she has almost [killed]
me with [soft])
for that boy.

The poem is an orderly little thing with its symmetrically organized stanzas. Each stanza contains one or two bracketed words: ‘soft’ and ‘killed, which are recycled throughout the poem, reminding the reader of the 1973 Roberta Flack song, ‘Killing Me Softly.’ With this reminiscence we pull up from the digs of the poem, balancing rather awkwardly, a shard of a somewhat more shared and contemporary cultural history than we find in the rest of the book which tends to focus more on Ancient history (Paris, Phoenix, Heliopolis, and Sappho); yet, when one thinks of this Flack song, I’d bet that for most it’s not without a pretty itchy feeling of kitsch. This fleeting memory of the ‘70s love song is then set against the Classical, the image of ‘Aphrodite, weaving,’ thus creating a fairly harsh juxtaposition, yet one woven together, if loosely, by the subject of love (l.6).

Still, among these more macrocosmic juxtapositions we find within the material of this poem some smaller juxtapositions, even of grammar, in lines like: ‘… You may can’t (l. 4). These moments during which the grammar is deliberately obdurate, together with the use of brackets and parentheses for no apparent reason other than to alert the reader, perhaps, to the places in the poem of removal and insertion from some external force (the sound of Roberta Flack on the radio as the poet wrote?), create a kind of visual and aural noise in this poem. The poem feels somehow unpleasant, undone. The weaving’s coming apart; indeed, if we remove the apostrophe from the repeated ‘can’t,’ we read ‘you may cant’. The line now reveals a sloped stance from which ‘you’ may sing.

This poem is not easy to access, to care about; yet, the poem remains quite musical, so much so that one perhaps hears a predetermined, fixed form. With its repetitions of the words ‘killed’ and ‘softly,’ as well as other repetitions of words and phrases throughout these brief lines (‘mother,’ ‘can’t,’ ‘that,’ etc.) we may begin to wonder because of the poem’s strangely musical quality: Is this a Villanelle, a sestina, a form that the poet has come upon alone?

The poem, however, despite its rather disjoint, gnarled exterior, if looked at from the ‘right’ perspective, remains a gorgeous lyric, one which because of its fragmentation suggests a consciousness revealed bare in a Freudian landscape, frightened and alone: ‘It’s no use Mother I’ (l.1). That line-break there says it all (“mother” ever in relation to “I”); indeed, the use of pronouns throughout this poem is probably responsible for the lyric tone of the poem, especially in the closing lines: ‘me with [soft])/for that boy.’ The brackets here highlight the word ‘soft’ and with its juxtaposition of the second-person singular with the word ‘boy,’ the poem in the end becomes quite touching, for somehow out of its own noise emerges an image of a speaker blushing just under the language as this poem, despite its title, begins to shout that though perhaps seemingly disposable — a text made of left-over waste language inserted hither and thither almost arbitrarily — it is a poem ironically of tremendous use to the book as a whole.

Finally, on page 56 we come to a little poem, compact in a single stanza, ‘Base,’ which we place at the perfect center of our lyric system, neutral in its lyricism between the extremes of ‘Birds… ’ and ‘Fragment… .’ Consider the range of meanings of this title, spanning everything from the more positively connoted foundation of something, suggesting strength and solidity, to the negatively connoted lowest and most vile aspect of something, suggesting weakness and disgust. The word is a perfectly self-contained paradox. This poem, hovering in the lyric center is, in fact, practically invisible and is in that regard a perfect lyric. It’s like a breath, like a thought, making its claim somewhere just up ahead, turning sharply on the cusp. It barely exists in real-time; yet, there it is, nine lines long, written entirely in lower-case. Retallack writes in a later part of her book:

This is the pragmatic-mystical ground zero: zone of Cagean silence. That is, scene of new composition that redefines geometries of attention. It’s full, even in its conspicuous absences, of the matter that is always improbably there that must be attended to if we are to recover our senses and move on.
(‘Fig. 1’ 192-3)

Move on from what? From our pasts, from now on. This.

We note how the poem can be divided in half by a semicolon that ends the fifth line: ‘a low black sink and nothing;’ and it is here that this poem attempts to give a name to, to draw an image of pure NOTHING. The first part of the poem draws an image of something (What?): ‘night ends inconclusively’ (l.1). But then we find a kind of seascape at first light: ‘planes trawling cross/the bar’ (ls. 2-3) (Is this an allusion to Tennyson?) The poem it seems attempts to capture that moment, that flash, when night just then Bing! becomes day. And then after that semicolon at the end of line five, the poem doubles back on itself, the darkness erasing into light: ‘Fiat Lux.’ But then there’s something arch, something menacing out there: ‘nothing rising but the ribs,’ as closed eyes widen, the world waking with a hard-on (l. 6.). The ribs of what? What comes from the water? Is this Godzilla, some other mystery denizen beyond the typhoon, arising behemoth under the particle skies? You read the book and find… what?

Let us close with an observation, again, from Joan Retallack:

… the engine of modern science had been until recently a tunnel-vision pursuit of simplicity and elegance, not only leaving primary aspects of our experience of the world unexplored but casting them into suspect categories of confusion and error. Luckily the gamut of possible foregrounds for the sciences and the arts now includes multiplicity and unpredictability.
(‘Fig. 1’ 184)

For what exactly is the dynamic of a contemporary lyric? It’s wondrous and terrifying, enduring in difficulty. Simultaneous slippage between — (sweaty) inquiring and sloppy. Avoiding the violence of dualism, the fabricated authority of simple definition, it seems the lyric ‘project is not so much to understand what is meant as to create meaning and possibility through one’s conversational intervention in the pattern’ (‘:Re:’ Retallack 124). As Retallack would hearken it: a ‘poethical wager.’ I’ll see your quatrain and raise you a five spot. Let’s in our own words exercise a range of dynamic possibility. Drop down and give me twenty.

The technique? To query: Where can we go now? Where have you been? I can’t begin to say. A global search for Eros. Again and again. Charge it. A battering ram of a book that yet articulates in the quiet just beyond the edges of what we can think and say, pulling out the stitches. Carpenter has built of fine lines the hammer of sound — a nail in the flesh of meter at cross-purposes with a lascivious look, the crux at its center:

                                         … the specter
of the fish, which being human
we’d mistaken for a sign.
(‘Sweet Poems’ 34)

Carpenter’s attempt here comes at the reader from these pages as a needle prick. Pleasure on paper, a companion in the night light. You really should I think own this master work, Perspective Would Have Us, wiggling down inside, reaching

                                              and together conflate
                                              between the montage of the covers
                                                                                              a fingertip lips

                                               … a dreamy memory, a lost city

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. Tr. Richard. Miller. New York: Noonday, 1975.

Bernstein, Charles. ‘Artifice of Absorption.’ A Poetics Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1992. 9-89.

Carpenter, Erica  Perspective Would Have Us. Providence: Burning Deck, 2006.

Guest, Barbara. Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing. Eds. Kelsey St. Press. Berkeley: Kelsey St., 2003.

———. ‘Mysteriously Defining the Mysterious: Byzantine Proposals of Poetry.’ Kelsey 83-86.

———. ‘A Reason for Poetics.’ Kelsey 20-23.

———. ‘Wounded Joy.’ Kelsey 100-04

Retallack, Joan. Poethical Wager. Ed. Joan Retallack. Berkeley: UC Press, 2003.

———. ‘:Re: Thinking: Literary: Feminism:.’ 110-44.

———. ‘Fig. One, Ground Zero, Fig. 2.’ 181-96.

———. ‘The Scarlet Aitch.’ 102-09.

Yeats, William Butler. ‘Sailing to Byzantium.’ 1927. The Tower. 1928. The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats. Ed. Richard J. Finneran. New York: Macmillan, 1989.

Work Consulted

Liddell, H. G. and R. Scott, eds. Greek-English Lexicon. Abridged ed. Oxford, GB: Oxford UP, 1987.

Scott Bentley, 2006

Scott Bentley

Scott Bentley was born in Burbank, California, in 1964. He received a BA from UC Santa Cruz in 1986, an MA from UC San Diego in 1989, and an MFA from Mills College in 2004. He lives with his family in Oakland, California. He teaches writing at CSU East Bay, Mills College and elsewhere. He is the author of two chapbooks — Edge (Birdcage Chapbooks, 1987) and Out of Hand (Parenthesis Writing Series, 1989), and two full-length books: Ground Air (O Books, 1994) and The Occasional Tables (sub press, 2000); and he has co-translated the work of Brazilian writer, Regis Bonvicino and others. Some of the latest translations appear in New American Writing and The Pip Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century (Vol. 3), Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: 20 Contemporary Brazilian Poets (Green Integer, 2003). Other work has appeared in The Poker, The Styles, Syllogism, Tinfish, word for/word and elsewhere.