A post-apocalyptic poem focuses on a lost soul wandering through a wasteland.
In this ambitious poetic debut, visual artist Hassett offers an abstract narrative about a man in search of something after a worldwide cataclysm, what appears to be a nuclear war—“From the skies to the seas plunged a mammoth beast…a blazing hand fell from the sky and touched the man whose eyes lit.” The narrator, who at times seems both flesh and not, finds himself in the middle of a classic epic archetype, the descent into Hades, when he stumbles across a great cenote in the desert and, without hesitation, throws himself down. This narrator continues his wandering, now through a phantasmagoric underground, encountering various signs and wonders from a past age. Hassett’s free verse brings this nightmarish landscape to life, escorting the reader from one vision to the next: a glyph-covered hallway, a mysterious floating stone (presumably the titular Boundary Stone), a great bonfire, and other objects that lend themselves easily to symbolism. While the convoluted rhetoric makes this narrative difficult to follow at times, Hassett displays a gift for vivid imagery. His descriptions of runes or drawings stretch over pages, and it’s easy to get as lost as the narrator in his rich imagination. There are also striking passages about natural geography. The narrator roams through a desert, explores caverns, follows underground rivers. But the most rewarding part of this long poem is its emotional core, an ambiguous love story. The narrator dives into a great pit in the desert in search of some mysterious “you,” which may be a lover, some part of himself, or perhaps an abstract truth. The verses about this “you” are the most beautiful in the enchanting volume, especially those in the third and sixth sections. This “you” ultimately guides the narrator to transcendence at the poem’s conclusion: “Your splendor at the spread of dawn is streamed and unobstruct and lays out warm.” Despite some occasions of obtuse phrasing and indulgent page breaks, this book delivers a rewarding collection of elegant, haunting images.
An engaging epic for fans of abstract poetry and dystopian literature of any kind.