Jasmine Dreame Wagner uses abstraction, typography, and occasional injections of subtle humor to illuminate the junctions of landscape, humanity, and industry in Rings, her first full length book of poems.
There’s a recurring motif here of unclosed parentheses. Implying that there’s more. What is the statement of a poem beginning with “(” and ending without punctuation? That there is an open ended silence? That the poem goes on without the reader and without the poet and without the book?
That even when we move on to the next piece, the prior one is still there, overlaying this one, overlaying the one beyond it, overlaying the landscape it describes, a landscape of layers of geology, settlement, industry, collapse, redevelopment, gentrification…?
“Ruin is a cultured pearl” she says. In the rust, the weeds, the buried rivers and abandoned mills and rebuilt stadiums and casinos she describes, Wagner finds the way humans have turned life into art, and the sometimes funny ways that art and life mix the profound and the completely superficial:
(It turns out, it was advertising. There was no higher calling.
It turns out, some things speak truth inaccurately, like a light wash over a jpeg of my dinner on Instagram.
Wagner scatters aphoristic clarity in with lines you have to read four or five times, parse and re-parse, to realize that they aren’t meant to have one meaning, that some things (some poems, some places, some people) are puzzles that don’t always have solutions. It can be confusing, at points. But reading and rereading this book, I am certain I am in the presence of real talent.