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Tether to be treasured,
This review is from: The Tethers (Paperback)
Carrie Etter's poems - short, dense, unfurling - remind me of Virginia Woolf's love of the crystalline and curious "moment of being" in which we catch ourselves thinking (and feeling) ourselves into being. Familiar objects, locations, shades of sky act exactly as "tethers" for the speaker, in poems that often drift upwards like a crane shot -- as in "Crowd of One," from the cracked egg to the ceiling.
"Over the Thames," one of my favourite poems, is precisely about this mood of suspension (which can hover, as in Woolf, over a crowd and create minutely- and generously-observed social comedy, as in "The Review" and "Indian Summer"):
there is no universal
for what keeps us aloft, but O
I cherish it.
Cherishing in turn buttresses the suspended eye as it takes in everything. In its attentive and wily work with language, such cherishing also creates the details that "tether" the (this) reader: words like "Cassandraic" ("Citizenship"); the reference to Hungerford Bridge (my favourite Thames crossing) in the wonderfully Roni Horn-esque "Collecting the Ridges" (no accident: Horn's Thames photo series collects poetic "ridges" from Eliot, Conrad, Poe, Dickinson and others).
Despite the book's titular reference to rooting and binding, these poems are full of water and its flux: not only the Thames, but the paper boats of "The Daughters of Prospero." In remarking the constancy of water, Etter overturns Catullus' cliché: that the words of women should be written on water, because both are untethered and trustless. Like "Millais' Ophelia" (another fine observational poem), Etter knows the weight of water, its bound composition. In "The Bonds", where the poem's title resonates through multiple discourses from chemistry to "the -ologies of more elusive chemistries", water reflects back history's constancy in mutability, coded through language's adaptable clarity, words like water's surface revealing hidden treasures in their depths. Findings rich and strange arrive with each re-reading.