Ogilvie’s (You: Selected Poems and Knot: A Life, 2008) new collection of poems and paintings delights the eye and the mind.
Searching for what she describes in an author’s note as “language and meanings not discovered in my previous work,” the poet experiments in this book with several aspects of her medium: sound, syntax, and rhythm. Long-lined couplets surge forward with jetlike propulsion, and casual observations reveal surprising emotional depths. The first images of “Counter Top,” for example, are easy to grasp: “what to do with ten crystals on the shelf what to do / with three helicopters chopping overhead what to do with three hundred pieces of beach glass.” Where they lead, however, is harder to fathom: “we could generate books which meant nothing but words or without / words a thing between two covers meant to keep you guessing / meant to keep you at bay not meant to go to bed with you who does that anymore.” The poems, organized alphabetically by title, frequently comment on the business of living life and making art in language. “All Do Not All Things Well,” which begins the book, explores the problem of putting experience into words: “it was new unsyllabled unsayable illiterate babbled at.” The concluding piece, “Writing,” acknowledges the rare, hard-won result: “We wake up holding one gold nugget from the night’s mining.” The colorful paintings in this beautifully produced volume, on several full-page color plates, combine solid, talismanic forms with repeated shapes, including crosses and opaque circles. A striking pair of portraits looks out at readers with clear, watchful faces. Some paintings have a Mark Rothko air about them, with bands of quiet color in differing widths and placement. The openness of the images—partly due to the abstract, geometric compositions and partly due to their simplicity—allows for the busier, sometimes-breathless effect of the poems to hum with auditory energy.
Verses that offer glimpses into rarely mapped reaches of consciousness.