Jena Osman's National Poetry Series–winning volume begins by telling the reader "Rather than invent a world, I want a different means to understand this one." Delving into poet and artist Cecilia Vicuña's instruction to use etymology as a way to see multiple possibilities and realities, Osman's word maps become vehicles that illustrate subtle and fascinating semantic and historical shifts—traveling through such diverse themes as the 1845 arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin, the origins of "the Joker," and the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. From a poem in the section Financial District, "Fulton + Commerce":
the Roman god of commerce was, whence English, who, a lively and speedy messenger, gave his name to the element popularly known as quicksilver. he connects manhattan to brooklyn with fulton ferry.
faint red lines reach blinking from surface to surface as graphed pulsation.
quick here means "alive." during the revolution the British play cricket in the market...later, the market supplies "the common people with the necessities of life at a reasonable price." rubber-booted men with their fish, clean, bone, ice. the derivative Latin adjective becomes Early French and English (French). a section of the structure collapses.
This book review originally appeared in American Poets.