Good poets know that poetry is no facile concatenation of rhymes and rhythms, but instead the hard-won result of wrestling with the rudiments of a language we think we know but don’t. Wesseling is a good poet, and the foundation of her verse is the basic challenge of human communication—bridging the gap between people. She describes her increasing obsession with that gap in an early piece: “More and more / I focus on the distancers / walls of flesh and skin / making and separating us. / And the air thin nothing / to carry our voices.” “[D]istancers”—those things that keep people apart, keep people from connecting—are crucial to the author’s worldview, as they can turn communications into “inefficient twitterings.” She yearns to make her own twitterings more efficient, but she notes that content, too, is quite difficult to convey. “Here’s a poem,” she writes in “Community,” “What’s it about? That’s / hard to answer. It has to do / with who you are and who / you are to me.” One way she tries to make her poetry more efficient is to pare it down to the simplest diction, using only the most basic building blocks of language; take the opening lines of “Impatient,” for example: “I don’t know why we didn’t use that afternoon / to buy oranges, some fruit. It was / dark enough. Heavy, greasy.” This whittling-away also has the happy effect of reminding readers just how much meaning they may wring from little words. But Wesseling’s efforts aren’t all dour striving, and she never loses her sense of humor. In “Prayer,” a lament addressed to an ineffectual deity, she writes of “God / mismanager of the funds of the universe / probably embezzling up there / and that’s why I have all these parking tickets.” To fit some laughs into such an admirably serious undertaking is no small feat.
Strong poetry whittled to a fine, sharp point.