Elizabeth A.I. Powell, Atomizer: Poems (Louisiana State Press, 2020)
Roger Greenwald, The Half-Life (Tiger Bark Press, 2020)
When he lived in Stone Cottage, Ezra Pound used to play a game with W.B. Yeats called ‘listening to incense’. The task was to guess the smells from a mixture of incense and to cite apposite poems; it appears Elizabeth A.I. Powell is engaged in something similar. Her latest collection, Atomizer, is full of smells. With each, she writes in the title poem, ‘[w]e behave differently’. In ‘The Ordinary Odor of Reality’, for example, ‘baby powder and chlorine’ lead the speaker from counting their breaths, to considering all the worldviews they have ‘inhaled’. ‘[S]pecter scents of climbing roses’ in ‘Portrait of Woman in Bath’ cause another speaker to imagine the bath water absorbing her ‘bone’s dried violet’ as she becomes the scent of ‘wet ferns’. Much of this poetry transits between ideas of synaesthesia and insemination, which might seem an odd combination but makes sense in the modern world of online dating where ‘consciousness will transmigrate, when science puts chips in brains’, and baseball matches where ‘[e]veryone is losing their attention span’. The desire to make unexpected connections and to probe ready–made ones apart characterises these poems, making things ‘everywhere at once’; is that not a work of art, they ask? As in ‘Driving Home up Poker Hill’, the speaker claims to be building a ship ‘so that it can sail through dissociations’. ‘There is’, says the speaker of another poem, ‘no cure for phantom odors’, nor does Powell claim ...
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