There’s a dialectic driving Gillian Conoley’s seventh collection forward: the persistence of peace, clarity, and calm in a troubled postmodern America where “television killed radio, and internet replaced television, and video games / killed us all.” Accordingly, much of Conoley’s text has a fractured feeling to it, composed of fragments that spill across the page, making great use of white space and, more sparing use of, punctuation. Her formal adventurousness works with a more lyric sensibility to chronicle major events in a life—the speaker’s illness, a mother’s death—and in the country—the Occupy movement, the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords—in the refracted manner of our time. The poems are peppered with the vernacular of the digital world and eschew explicit narrative. Conoley’s work has a vision larger than the personal, and there’s the promise that mindfulness might counter the feeling of collapse in any given moment. In the titular series, she reminds us:
contrary to history, to war’s punctuations
the almost dripping popsicle held from the body
on the heat-buckled sidewalk, earth’s
involuntary memory to descend and ascend,
the round. the blue.
to begin all over again.
This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2014.