So much swings on the hinge of what is remembered without being often thought of. To encounter a book titled Serpentine Loop, icy – riverine forms drawn on the cover-becomes an event that twins other encounters with the serpentine. To open it and find an exploration of the form’s expressions in unexpected ways, both visually and sensually, in emotion and language, to say the shape of a poem deepens, taking on all these levels at once, becomes a singular experience in itself.
One thing precipitates another: “The map forms as we use it, etched / by the flow – not of water, / but what we do to each other,” writes Elee Kraljii Gardiner, in “Work of Rain.” Many of the book’s concerns are compacted in that line, but this could be said of many other lines. Repetitions are affirmed, practiced: to perfect the formal figure skating shape of a serpentine loop, from which the book takes its title, requires endless repetition towards precision.
In the interrelation between forms, what poems share with rivers and landscapes becomes apparent. These are ephemeral materializations briefly realized before mutation and erasure. Ice skating is locus and propulsion, motion of the book, linking intimacies and traumas together. Like poetry, it’s an act of inscription. Skates leave on the ice patterns expressed by blade and muscle. “The body written into the ice,” Krajii Gardiner writes in “Scribe.” A machine with an absurd name trundles out to erase what’s been written, the pond thaws, the river cracks. Inscriptions don’t last but rematerialize in nerves on reading or remembrance. Poems aren’t eternal either and there’s nothing wrong with that because it’s the most natural thing in the world. “That intangible thing that is here and then gone,” Goldsworthy says.