Kathleen Reichelt
Review of Nextness, by Randee Silv (Arteidolia Press, 2023)

“Nextness”, published by Arteidolia Press, NYC, is the first full length collec-tion of Randee Silv’s rarely published poems. Silv is a writer and visual artist with a keen understanding of how images and meaning require disassembly and recon-sideration in order to not be caught in the trappings of cliché and repetition. The artist doesn’t deny repetition, but uses it to create surprise. Each poem, which Silv refers to as a wordslab, is shaped like a block, offering reliable and consistent structure to withstand the upending and intentional untying to the way stanza and verse is experienced.

“Obsolete jottings caught by not captured” is one way of putting it, and the artist does so in “Disarray” which is the opening piece in Nextness. It is an invitation to trip through a precisely-curated exhibition of 82 visually formatted works of art with one word titles, resembling squares or rectangles on the page. A nod to concrete, perhaps, but also a connection to the artist’s visual art. Where the artist once paint-ed abstractions in oil, she now collages, photographs, frames and constructs with words that sometimes feel like scenes in a film. Like the art of Sophie Calle, Silv’s work is contemporary, cerebral, with an unexpected warmth.

Silv visually constructs each wordslab to reveal the white space of a frame that holds the details of images and thought reconsidering itself mid-thought. “There’s never a shortage of temptation to intervene with what’s overheard”, the artist points out in “Commotion”. Letting you know she knows what you might experience as you move along to the next frame. That wherever you are reading, wherever you are looking and thinking, the world around you honks and mumbles. Or maybe it’s your own mind, like the mind of the one who is writing, that wants to intervene.

The reader, an ever active participant in the exhibition of art, is acknowledged and included in Silv’s work. The artist is not preaching, she is not placing herself in the spotlight of her own feelings, she is present with the understanding of next as now. Observational, her writing is full of empathy and awareness, without relying on sentiment or common recurring symbols to extract a sense of understanding. Yet, Silv also allows herself moments of nature-feel, an example found in the way “Retraced”, showing up midway through the book, finishes.

Retraced: Catenary pendulous waves. Funhouse mirrors. Bogus remakings levitate. Reminiscing. Already complicated. She wasn’t moving. Anecdotal shortages baffled even her. Plated rime. Needled columns swerve dome to dome. Unbending bends bent counterclockwise. Mud balls flung in every direction. Meltings & refreezings. Crazed volumes of sure bets. If she could remember. If she did. She’d summon what she just said. Conjectured purging is an ancient way to bargain. She wasn’t waiting for a bus. She was the midnight air.

Silv’s work will be challenging to poetry readers looking to be swept away. These are constructs that confront, rather than comfort, and might jar readers used to being lulled by canva-created squares of soma scrolling suggestions. But that’s not art, and this is. In the New York City tradition of edges, corners, and tall buildings that cast long shadows on our tiny little insignificant heads, there’s some gritty real-ism going on.

As I read each individually composed block of writing, I imagine them printed, framed and hanging in P.S.1. Large, looming, signs of the time. In this way, this col-lection of wordslabs is one of the best under-the-radar art shows opening in New York right now.