DRAFT 96: VELOCITY by Rachel Blau DuPlessis
(little red leaves textile editions, 2011)
Wow: DRAFT 96 by Rachel Blau DuPlessis is aptly (sub-?)titled with "VELOCITY”! There is a wonderful push-ing by the words as they gallop across the page. Well, they don’t always gallop but they begin that way and it’s an effective strategy: the reader is drawn in right away! Here’s the first poem-page (Page 3) of the gorgeously-crafted chap viz the superb production of little red leaves textile editions:
Pulses uneven, pushes
surging air gusts, gusts plunge
Wings, its wings
open and shut, balancing
It snorkels precariously,
fast as it can.
A chap production is such a loving way to present excerpts of the poet’s well-known long poem in progress, Drafts, which she began in 1986 and was collected most recently in two Salt Publishing books: Pitch: Drafts 77-95 (2010) and The Collage Poems of Drafts (2011). It’s worth noting how this chap was made—“lovingly” (as a publisher’s note believably proclaims) sewn from recycled and remnant fabrics by Dawn Pendergrast. The textile covers and stitching are meticulous and give a deserved heft to a poem like DRAFT 96: VELOCITY.
While there’s an underlying push-y energy to DRAFT 96, the rhythm ebbs; so perhaps it’s more accurate to say there’s a push-and-pull. For example, Page 5
cross-hatched blasts of wind on wing—
it all came so fast
one couldn’t register it,
except as ripped.
What is, is.
What’s torn is all.
No readiness for the call.
But then the first stanza of Page 6 hastens the textual velocity again with
What then went
over persons, apples, wall?
Which is all to say, it’s a rollicking read … but what are we reading. Is what we are reading worth reading? Sure—for such gems of wisdom as (and I choose this one as it’s perfect for an epigraph):
Be stark in the world in which
all that heart-breaking brightness will
I don’t know what “be stark” or “be stark in the world” means, but I’d look forward to figuring it out through the writing of a poem epigraphed by these lines.
There are other powerful and powerfully-evocative lines in this draft (“reading is sadness, a word or sentence into void”). Ultimately, DRAFT 96 turns my attention to the total project of which it is a part. I’ve read other (though not all) “drafts”—indeed, appreciated them—but I think DRAFT 96 is the one which has made me interested in the project’s entirety. That’s certainly a good testament for this poem and chap.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. But she is pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books. the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA, a collaboration with j/j hastain, is reviewed by Susan Schultz at Jacket2 HERE, and by Amazon.com Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp HERE. Another book SILK EGG: Collected Novels is reviewed by Thomas Fink in Press 1 and by Nicholas Spatafora in OurOwnVoice.