The poems in PAPER BIRDS do not require any background other than a certain maturity of experience, some acquaintance with poetry and its oddities, and a lively curiosity: "a splash that drew us quickly refolds itself/as the lake's plain surface over a depthless void..."
As with a painting, a poem isn't a flash-frozen scene but a lively one in a reader's moment even if we can't see it so. What's there isn't waiting for us. It happens in our arrival, as our arrival: "like a team of synchronized swimmers whose legs and feet/then arms and hands form flower patterns/ briefly before a closing splash/it is flow we see and yet do not;" An unavoidable strangeness remains and must remain. The world isn't here for our pleasure nor our suffering, and poetry doesn't tell us why we have so much of the one and so little of the other, only that it is so. If it seems a particular poet is much too negative, consider the product of a thorough, open-handed negativity: "a shallow fluid 'I' walking its body from room to room/while its other face,/ strings of pulsing miracles commingled as a universe/streaming in an abyss/of virtual gaps between there-then and here-now,/watches, lives large, remembers..."
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