Noah Eli Gordon

 

Review of Another Random Heart, by Sara Veglahn
(Sara Veglahn, Another Random Heart, Margin to Margin, 2003 <www.litpress.com>. 25 pp.)

 

Although you might not be familiar with the work of poet Sara Veglahn, a recent implant to the east coast from Minneapolis MN, I'd wager that you've seen her likeness; depicted loosely in issue 12 of Brendan Lorber's Lungfull! magazine, the drawing, done during the July 2002 poetry festival in Boston, was reprinted in The Poetry Project Newsletter (#192, Dec.-Jan. 2003), and features the phrase, "wolves make it look easy," which just so happens to be the title for her as-of-yet unpublished manuscript from which this chapbook comes.

Another Random Heart, a 25 page prose-poem sequence, opens with the following sentence, "Scenes left on the cutting room floor flower into their own scenery." The sentence functions as a distillation for the entire poem, which has as its poetic template the combination of Barbara Guest's abstract lyricism, Leslie Scalapino's sequential structuring and Rosmarie Waldrop's investigatory ruminations. Veglahn's gestural poem unfolds not as the recreation of experience but as a consciousness responding to the cut-&-spliced scenes it finds itself submerged in. There is a distinctive intelligence moving throughout the poem, a set "I" from which the reader is able to glean only the subtle brushstrokes of the work's varying landscape, as one is never completely situated here.

In fact, the poem progresses in much the same way as one would stroll through an exhibit of paintings, the various pieces resonating and echoing with one another the further one gets, the difference being that here the paintings talk back. There is a "you" addressed throughout and an oftentimes ominous "they", a "they" who "want the document in their hands," and "want proof of their involvement." We're never told what document or exactly how "they" are involved, but this is precisely why the poem is able to consistently hold one's attention: its strikingly suggestive balance of randomness & inevitability allows one room to think, or, more poignantly, propels one into an atmosphere of thought; think of the character from Kurosawa's Dreams who literally strolls around inside of Van Gogh's paintings. Interestingly, the poem make direct references to the still-life paintings of CÚzanne.

It is difficult to cull a few representative lines from the work, as its paratactic construction imbeds meaning between the sentences, which vary from densely hyper-alterative ("Heat and happenstance have hoodwinked my eloquent schemes, but, like a glove, I've sequestered my half-silent sister in the alphabetic realm of immaculate order.") to shorter, truncated bursts. Nevertheless, here are the first three sentences from a later section:

Sometimes hunger precedes everything. The table does not need to be elevated but the breeze, it blows up a storm and there's a million wasps ready to burst out and flow beyond the ridgepole and the roof now layered in copper, where I walk as if swimming. An old taunting mechanism makes the laying on of hands seem like a new invention.

Evocative enough on its own, this passage accrues a contextual relevance because of the recurrence of particular nouns and concepts ( ridgepole, wasps, beyond, walking / swimming etc.) which appear scattered throughout the poem. Veglahn has created a matrix within which she is able to weave the distinctive musicality of Another Random Heart into, "a mainly plausible gesture provided by a wary eye."

Note: This review originally appeared in The Poker (Issue 2, Spring 2003), Daniel Bouchard's new politically engaged and important literary journal. Info: bouchard@mit.edu


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