Isolation Is Not Quiet : Aby Kaupang : a Review

In “Absence is such a Transparent House” (Tebot Bach, 2011), through use of caesura and Scripture, Aby Kaupang assaults and assuages the symphysis between god and death, eros and absentia. Her verse embodies the disjunct, excising (most) commas, appropriate since the word “comma” comes from the Greek word meaning to cut off; thereby making a synapse of sorts that seeks to span its own gaps.

“not having found a name        I lacked
candles       measured alarm       and sowed
poppies in my pockets for the furrows.”

These terse explorations of the eternal, like a modern day Dickinson or an impious Donne, break, blow and burn as much as they renew. Consider how absence creates tension:

“in my confinement       I said “god:

hem me in”       what can I do

Plenty of poets enjamb their title into the first line, but here it acts as a divine pronouncement; hovering above, detached from the body of the poem. That expanse between title and line, like god’s Sistine finger outstretched to touch Adam’s, both highlights and breaches the absence. Understanding this nearness-cum-nothingness, is key to understanding the “Transparent” of the title. There is a difference between nothing and the Nothingness (touching lightly on Heidegger); it is both annihilation and the edge of apotheosis. As she states in one poem:

“Nothingness       wrapped us in cord       new skins & gave
a place for ritual       a body crossable       a border crossed”

Called beyond or crossing this “push-pin earth” is the clarion of the book. In the poem “outlasting the body and later spaces”  we are “braying between the poles of time and less-ness” and longing for what is “inborn” and “absolute”. Though death is all encompassing, resurrection is replete as well, diminishing the sting of death. The prelude poem sets the stage with tongues & blooms and death & being that carry the theme of language, new life and transformation.

“when you roll away her lips

when you breathe your spirit
through her hands

when her funerary blanket withers
in your palm”

This poem beautifully conflates the Christian resurrection account and the Judaic creation myth before describing the world bursting into flower, fire and light. In fact, many of the book’s images and expressions are anchored in sacred writ. There is reference to Babel and Pentecost, transformations of the Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, but Bible and allusions to other poets (Blake, Catullus) aren’t used as classical ballast, but as signals of anxiety.

“when I applied my madness
of erasure

{windthrows       woman throws}

no one was long remembered

I am a fool

or wise       & this too is semantics”

Like the preacher, the speaker here sees the vanity of this world, the palliation of this world, but the call of the book is to peer through the absence, through death itself, to that place where “tragedy too might die.”

Other reviews:

DaZe by Matthew Cooperman

Resin by Geri Doran

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