Martha Ronk, Partially Kept
Nightboat Books, 2012
Throughout her ninth collection, Ronk calls upon language to reconcile the space in which the body ends and nature begins. The poems in Partially Kept exist in a state of agitation while also pushing ahead in a state of grace. "How much we want to disobey the ways things are set to go or have gone before," she writes in "Incomplete Form," "as if / it were built into the DNA we carry about with us unlike the quenching of thirst…a needless invention of how it might have gone / otherwise." The book’s hushed and fragmentary opening sequence draws upon Sir Thomas Browne’s The Garden of Cyrus, a text Ronk uses as a point of departure and a point of contention. "The richest / odours of plants surpasseth and astonisheth," writes Browne, and Ronk answers him in the timbre of his own language in "Refusal": "yet doth not / suffice." Though she argues with some of the most towering figures in English literature, Ronk also explores some of the most towering questions in contemporary life, including our relationship to fatalism:
What does not take place must occur and over again as one continues to wait for it and if one wants it deeply enough one must actually work to prevent its happening lest by its happening it be reduced and delimited.
This review was published in American Poet, Volume 44, Spring 2013.