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Nine by Anne Tardos Reviewed in Jacket2

  

Stu Watson: A Review of NINE by Anne Tardos

· Paperback: 148 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-226-6

 

Anne Tardos’s Nine is a sequence of nine-word lines grouped in nine-line stanzas. This metric which involves the counting of words rather than accents or syllables has a radically leveling quality. Suddenly “temporomandibular” and “I” are of the same metrical value, based on their simple, monadic quality as “words.” As employed through Tardos’s artistry, this form, sometimes referred to as “counted verse,” feels appropriate to our historical moment. It is as though these nine-by-nine grids are architectural blocks, constituent elements in a particular kind of linguistic structure. In its porous inflexibility the form mirrors the empirical reality of infrastructure, of the walls that separate our homes and the streets and subway tunnels that convey us through the world—the commonplace yet all-but-invisible concrete around which our lives are constructed. But it also parallels our desire for ratiocination and “numbers”—“more data”—on which to base our political or personal decisions. The meaning of these poems is often generated by the resistance, dissonance, and lateral freedom they demonstrate within such bounds.

This dissonance leads the poems to express a curious kind of self-referentiality aimed at their form. And so we see concluding lines that offer statements like: “The ninth line is often problematic, as we see.” “The ninth often gets to deliver a punchline.” “The ninth usually knows the way out of here.” Each line of each poem is end-stopped, which further delimits the language, yet Tardos at times follows up a line in such a way so as to hint at enjambment, as in “It’s So Quiet Somehow”:

 

It’s so quiet today—don’t know what to say.

The uncertainty of the uncertainty and then the uncertainty.

Is the road we take imagined or already given?

Are we inventing our lives as we live them?

Why do we ask questions no one can answer?

Have we finally found a groove, you and I?

A modus vivendi that’s livable for both of us?

Don’t you hate a poem that’s full of questions?

Shouldn’t I try to answer some of them somehow?

 

The way the second and third lines abut suggests a continuity, as though “uncertainty…Is the road we take…” but the poem resists this interpretation in its syntax, as the third line instead “resolves” into a question. The final seven interrogatory lines modulate between concrete images and abstract musings before concluding by turning on their own need for questioning—and raising the specter of an “answer” that, by virtue of its appearance in the terminal ninth line, cannot be offered. Just as an individual, when faced with some bureaucratic encumbrance will sometimes comply but do so unhappily, so these poems always reach their appointed end, but are not always “happy” in doing so, and they let us know this.

Read the whole review here

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