Garcia Roberts has made a map, here, in and with her language. A language so rendered by body and intellect and loss that I find myself whispering them aloud. Whispering because I both want to know their wisdoms, but am afraid of them—their brazenness and powers of saying. The Reveal is utterly elegiac, blistering, imaginative, urgent—rendered out of reverence for life, but also a quiet daring to wrestle to say something true about loss, grief, and the strange logic of a world seemingly governed by time. “I knew were I to raise a hand to stop you,/ I would find I could not raise a hand to stop you.” “Nothing is stable. Air can step out of water. Water can step out of air.” Revelation sitting so close to woe. The terror and blessing of a poetics (a world) built on inversions. “May the terrible eye of god/ swim over you.// May it at once:// Recognize you, forget you.” I leave these poems astonished by how they undo the hem of my thinking, my seeing.
The depth of Garcia Roberts’ work is as brave and elemental as Nietzsche’s radical questioning: what is love? what is creation? what is longing? what is a star? But the force of her voice comes from generosity rather than resistance, an appetite for perceptual splendor in the midst of scarcity, and an utterly unique ability to embody, not simply describe, the spiritual complexity apparent in everyday experience. The glorious table of contents of The Reveal lists luxurious titles that combine effusion and a delicate sharpness (you must stop and read it alone, for it is itself a poem). I’m going to keep The Reveal right between Gerard Manley Hopkins and Adrienne Rich, poets who could keep watch over our humanity’s sustained, but so often muted, emergency. How could Garcia Roberts have made a “dark night of the soul” as buoyant as this, so full of the ability to make words rise?
In Chloe Garcia Roberts’ haunted poems, the notion of what’s undone—in both senses of yet unfulfilled and finally destroyed—takes on luminous force. The world in her poems wavers between these limits; sometimes what’s undone is a presence, sometimes it is an absence, but the speaker’s need for understanding becomes a potent spell of potential. It is what makes for the heated tension in these fine lyrics.
Chloe Garcia Roberts writes with keen attention to sound and with mythic insight. In a book whose titles themselves are resonant miniature poems, a reader experiences ‘a silver stitch in death between the walked and the walking’ and arrives at a place ‘where an I is hemorrhaging into smoke.’ It’s a world where ‘the silk griefblossom of a new face’ is indelible, and the speaker is simply ‘in front of the glass.’ This book is a marvelous debut.
Chloe Garcia Roberts is the translator of Li Shangyin’s Derangements of My Contemporaries: Miscellaneous Notes (New Direc tions), which was awarded a 2013 PEN/ Heim Translation Fund Grant. Her work has appeared in BOMB, Boston Review, A Public Space and Interim Magazine among others. She lives in Boston and is the managing editor of the Harvard Review.
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Read “Once When Light Returned After a Blackout, I Found My Face Pressed Into a Wall Asking for Help” and “Outside My Window a Tree Is Singing Flowers So I Cannot Sleep, I Cannot Sleep” at the Boston Review. Chloe Garcia Roberts’ debut book of poetry, The Reveal, will be published by Noemi Press this fall.
$15 Paperback | Published 2015