BIRI 2013 #1: Green-Wood by Allison Cobb

Books I Read In 2013

Allison Cobb
Factory School

Something about the way trees talk or don't talk. About how graves talk or don't talk. About how poetry talks or doesn't talk. "Shards of poetry glint from the prose like the pieces of metal — commemorative “dog tags” offered to soldiers, their bodies returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom for burial — that lie beside some of the graves." The poetry pierces out, like the first mention of gayness on page 124 of the book (it ends on page 131). Reproduction and the failures of reproduction. A moment when Walter Benjamin suggests that women did not walk erect, that they only learned to walk on two feet in order to have face-to-face intercourse. The way Benjamin fades. A way of thinking about history and the body, the body within history. The "I" piercing through the frame of the text as well, through the repeated fragments: saying no to poetry and still making it. Allowing poetry to filter through a bit. A sense with this book that I could read it again and again and find something brilliant again and again. Or open it to any page and read one sentence and it would be brilliant: "where light makes us, even / us, its face." How to gather things up in the face of death and war launched in the name of that death. How to listen to trees, or at least channel them through the books surrounding us. Also, the birds: faraway birds in Papua New Guinea recovered through colonial, Linnaean botanical expeditions and birds closer to home in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. 600,000 bodies feeding the trees and the land. The poetics of etymology: "Paradise comes from ancient Iran, a compound of pairi- "around" + diz "to make or form (a wall)."

Several different manuscripts happening in this book at once. A treatise on a cemetery. An exploration of trees and birds. A foray into Thoreau, Emerson, Benjamin. The history of Cleaveland. An investigation of private space, colonialism. An attempt to have a child. These fragments create a latticework; one string wandering away and then another suddenly showing back up to pick up where we left off. The latticework or the weave in the narrative. The mixing of poetic line and prose sentence. The use of the three asterisks to mark the sections off from one another. The way lists of objects appear and re-appear.

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