Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Some issues also offer Featured Poets, a "The Critic Writes Poems" series, and/or Feature Articles.

Saturday, May 2, 2015



(Black Square Editions, New York, 2015)

I can’t think of when I last witnessed self-awareness being so delicate.  Not fragile.  Delicate.  It attests to the smartness of Barry Schwabsky’s voice, as displayed in his latest poetry volume, TREMBLING HAND EQUILIBRIUM.

Actually, what I call/sensed as delicate self-awareness would seem to befit that title, yes?  Trembling hand, yet equilibrium?  It goes something like these below—and for these examples I opened the book at random just to show how both delicacy and self-awareness permeate the book—an intriguing combination for perhaps exemplifying how knowledge need not equate to a fixed conclusion or didacticism; also obvious in these samples below is Schwabsky’s fresh language:

Your vowels are words under certain conditions.

my eye pours its emptiness into them
and reads to the end of a distant word
—from “The God Helmet”

In a certain poem “The earth will
remember you” means “The sun
and moon will forget you.” When
it submits in writing the words

“Your peace will linger endless as
the sea” it means “Your silence will be
momentary as a plash of wave.” One
leads to another and another leads

to none. A corpse is the loudest thing
in existence. Life teems so thick in it
—from “Ode to a Note as It Is Played Upon Your Lips”

you know how those telephone poets coo
you said their names have no destination
and what is this strange sky
filled with armies of fireflies
—from”Falling Asleep at the Movies”

I say “self-awareness” and of course I’m not saying it’s necessarily the poet’s personal self.  I say “self” just to say the presence in these poems is strong, palpable—again attesting to the poems’ effectiveness. “Adept, thoughtful, complex, erotically-charged…” are just some of the adjectives in the blurb by another thoughtful poet Rodney Koeneke.  I have no disagreement.  But Koeneke sensed the same thing I said when he cites “plausible clef” as regards Schwabsky’s music.

You see, when I read these poems, I sense not just a person but the body of its speaker.  These poems aren’t just presented on a page; there is someone speaking these poems.  For example, how many of us remember our elders at the last stages of their lives when we read something like this poem below?  Even though this poem is presented in the third person—which befits a balance as presenting its wroughtness in the second person, let alone first, probably would have been too much—we become intimate with the noted self:


The poet no longer dreams of her coming breakfast. Inspiration waits
in the caves at the heart of the mountain. She pulls the mountain
of heaven and earth around her but no longer sleeps
soundly. This routine is old. She’s weary of the sublime hunger,
the swarms of melody, the eggs over easy.

The book also contains some marvelous effects from the poet’s interest in art.  I adore “[Unattributed Quotations on Drawing.”  The lines are philosophical meditations on the art of drawing—while thoughts on drawings as sketches are provided, the poem also reminds me of why I love drawing as an art of itself, not just a preparation for another medium.  Consider these lines:

“The hesitations that go to make up certainty reveal themselves in a line.”

“To draw is a way of erasing the drawing you have in mind.”

“When you see what it is a drawing of, you no longer see the drawing.”

“The marks are there to make the paper look good.”

“A drawing is a window and also the breaking of the window.”

“If the eye is curved, then what do you mean by a plane?”

“Some drawings are answers without a question.”

“The story behind a drawing is only its subtext.”

This is one of my reviews where the review falls short of the reviewed.  But I'm pleased to offer its approximation as TREMBLING HAND EQUILIBRIUM is a satisfying engagement, a rewarding and pleasurable experience.


Eileen Tabios recently released an experimental auto-biography, AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY, as well as her first poetry collection published in 2015, I FORGOT LIGHT BURNSForthcoming later this year is INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY will focus on the list or catalog poem form. She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  Her poetry collection, SUN STIGMATA (Sculpture Poems), received a review by Joey Madia in New Mystics Review and Zvi Sesling in Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene.  More information at 

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