Online Edition: Summer 2006

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nothing fictional but the accuracy or arrangement

nothing fictional but the accuracy or arrangement

                 (she

Sawako Nakayasu

Quale Press ($12)

by Dennis Barone

Sawako Nakayasu’s highly structured yet exploratory volume intrigues its reader from title to final page. Consider the title: how does fiction move through webs of truth and artificiality? We often call our narratives “true stories” and yet that expression rarely seems oxymoronic. How does a person, more particularly a woman, discover location in such a web?

The “she” at the lengthy title’s end is the self omitted or assumed in the text. Lines and/or stanzas begin with a verb followed by a description or an action as if to relocate this self or to recall her from absence to presence again.

The first section of the poem has four stanzas per page for 13 pages. There is much white space in which “she” can wander, the reader can wonder, and both may meet. There is a progression of four one-line stanzas, four two-line, four three-line, four four-line stanzas per page and then the pages work in reverse order, ending on the section’s last with four one-line stanzas.

These conjectures and placements seek the form, the formula that allows an identity to form and be self-reflective within any particular context: [she] “delivers words according to geography.” But the sought for situated-ness seems to be in a state of continual postponement: “witnessing the slightest sagging in what would otherwise be an / ephemeral self, sets her belief right up on it, alongside the usual / books, matches, huddles of dust.”

The second section contains weighty prose blocks interspersed with blank pages as these paragraphs break down into stanzas and reform into blocks again. This 25-page section, the longest, is rich in repetition and variation. Revealed to the reader here is a “she” in relation to her self, to others, and to objects in a shifting landscape, “somewhat off of / her normal expectations.” For example, one page begins: [she] “enters the outside, stumbles across a cello, knees to cello, small / bruises in exchange for time, what she takes home along with this / and that paul.” These passages speak also of the ritualistic aspects of daily life—talking, bathing, and eating—and the contrary desire for sensation in a limitless and random set of possibilities.

The third section of two parts in 19 pages serves as a recapitulation. It has the inverse progression of part one, though now with only three stanzas per page except for the first part’s final page which only has two one-line stanzas. As if incomplete, then, the poem of necessity continues and returns at its end to the prose block and stanza form of the middle-section. Throughout this third section, speculations are of broader scope than those previous. Here Nakayasu speaks of change and of last things and leave-taking: [she] “says goodbye to another man, a grandfather, time and again as / if it were the last—a reasonable knowledge, and how many / variations of this—how many parallels.”

In the brief second part of the third section, Nakayasu merges the one into the many and into an expansive whole instead of a determined particular, asking whether this spreads the self too thin. This self, this she continues amidst contradiction because of both desire and need.

The three sections of Sawako Nakayasu’s ingenious and moving poem-as-book form a whole that is sculptural, musical, and profound.

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