Joan Retallack
Wesleyan University Press/ University Press of New England
103 pp.

  The beauty of innuendoes posits the possibility, on some level of the imagination, of recreating the blackbird's whistle from the silence afterwards.
  Joan Retallack seems to be working with something like the beauty of detritus, and it's something like the detritus of nothing. The afterrimages she creates, in the first section of this book, are the equivalents of the afterimages -- spots of color -- which one sees after staring so long at one color that it cancels another out.
  The first part of each "afterrimage" poem is a handful of lines, some or all of which may be found poetry. The second half, under a heavy line or a dotted line bisecting the page, is a repeat of the first half, with about 95% of the characters removed, so that what's left is a small spatter of letters and punctuation marks, as though the poem had been peeled off a wall, leaving only a few letters that one might go back and scrape off with a razor blade -- or else just paper over.
  Here's an example:


could be tragic if still possible

snagged mid-sentence

now no ""god" is able to restore a
"virgin" (sic) after her (sic) "downfall""

[preceding to appear illuminated in pastel colors]

[something about a nasal twang]

.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



                                  in pastel


  Is the reader supposed to recreate the inflection from the detritus? I'd guess not. I'm also guessing that the first half -- the unpeeled poem -- is itself the detritus of nothing. I'm guessing we can extrapolate it as the tatters stuck to a larger wall which we are also not supposed to be able to recreate.
  Afterrimages is right smack in the Parallel Tradition, which is unfamiliar territory for me, so I'm sort of fumbling my way through it. The tradition which it parallels works off of movement .... does this tradition work off of stasis? The only thing moving is the eye of the blackbird, and it's not moving either?
  The succeeding sections of Afterrimages explore different concepts, and are susceptible to the same sort of concept-teasing. I believe that all this adds something to the vocabulary of art. But I don't know how to judge it. I can't tell you if this is good stasis or mediocre stasis...le detritus juste, or the wrong scraps on the wall.