In Twoism, Ali Blythe deftly moves across the line between witnessing difference and duality as if it is “a twin sheet suspended between us.” This is best represented in the twinning and twining of Blythe’s lines that on the surface explicitly state something, while layering a subtle, alternative meaning on top. As we find in the haunting poem, “Shattered,” the first stanza offers an image that is at once beautiful and horrifying: “your eyes look like / beach glass fresh / from a pounding.” The push and pull of such lines leads readers along a path which constantly bifurcates without ever separating. Wrapping your mind around that idea represents a large part of what appeals in Blythe’s poetry: the forward marching letters moving along, jarring against the elation of soaring into metaphor; the palpable and unresolved tension between syntagmatic force and paradigmatic pleasure; the physical act of reading; and the mental uprush of understanding.
Blythe grafts the intangible to the material world, anchoring thought to substance, perhaps desperately, attempting to return physicality to memory, to cleave and bind thought, to touch it. This amounts to the effect of lived moments that all too quickly become memories; the effect of projecting memories into the future of moments we have not yet lived; and the recollection of possible futures we didn’t even know could have existed. In Twoism readers are invited to “accept the tense of a feeling,” to experience the heights and depths of loss and recovery, without siding with either.
Blythe’s poetry is powerful when it is elusive, evocative of anticipated déjà vu: “you will recurrently / have the sense someone // is checking the time.” Throughout the poems in Twoism Blythe registers things passing, a chronological flâneur on a jaunt through memory and experience, recalling the best of Ted Berrigan and Bernadette Mayer, with daily life resting alongside wry observation and a chaotic wit.
Ali Blythe’s Twoism will lull and surprise with musicality and insight, and is a delight to read that will fill those seemingly empty moments after reading with echoing thoughts of what was, what is and what might have been. Haunting is the right word to describe these poems, although not in a ghastly sense; rather, the haunting is an elusive companion accompanying thought through long days and nights, a welcome voice in the dark, cleaving and binding of our immaterial desires to our bodies. Here, we find the corporeal “plucked between finger and thumb / a little heap of translucence.”
Jason Christie lives in Ottawa with his wife and toddler. He is the author of Canada Post (Snare), i ROBOT (Edge/Tesseract), Unknown Actor (Insomniac), and a co-editor of Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry (Mercury). He has three chapbooks from above/ground press, two of which were nominated for the bpNichol Chapbook Award: GOVERNMENT (2013), and Cursed Objects (2014). The third chapbook is called The Charm. He is currently writing poetry about objects.
ARC YOUR WINGS AND SOAR!