Omnidawn. Oct. 2019. 80p. ISBN 9781632430755. pap. $17.95. POETRY
About halfway through her newest collection, Ronk (Ocular Proof; Transfer of Qualities) presents an essay that explains as well as evokes the deep silence that is the subject of these intricate metaphysical poems. A “National Poetry” series winner for Vertigo, Ronk here describes Arcata, CA, a place enveloped in silence and fog caused by a coastal upwelling of ocean water. Those conditions inspire Ronk’s themes and an “upwelling” of the images, metaphors, free association, and word play in these poems. Suggesting the scope of her book, Ronk notes, “Silence isn’t an opposite. It’s a thing in itself on which blackbirds…and undefined voices scrawl shapes.” Or as she says in a poem alluding to Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” “[silence is] a memory of birdsound/ …a voice left in empty stairwells.” That voice echoes mysteriously through this book, commenting on the various types of silence, whether found at the end of a line in prose or poetry after turning a page or while looking at a work of art. Ronk includes ekphrastic poems that find words for paintings—often called silent poems.
VERDICT The poem “Magritte, The Empire of Light,” describes this paradoxical painting, which shows a daylight sky over a nighttime scene
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