REVIEW: The Uncertainty Principle

The Uncertainty Principle
by Roxanna Bennett
Tightrope Books (2014)

Read by Julie Mannell

Roxanna Bennett’s debut poetry collection The Uncertainty Principle is a solitary basket of trinkets and memory souvenirs exposed through solemn confession—inviting you to participate in its unrealized possibilities, the magnetic imagining of a mystical mind.

The confession and fantasy starts with a poem that pays homage to the father of confession, Leonard Cohen, but the voice is not Cohen’s; this is not Cohen’s longing. There are portraits of men and it is not difficult to perceive the voice behind the words sitting alone at a bar, looking at strangers, and constructing elaborate fables of potential romance, adventure, and some kind of actualization of the wholeness the voice so unabashedly yearns for.

While the poems possess both whimsy in their fantasy and frank bodily imagery of gorged aortas, fresh organs, and shocks of skin, it rests in the emotional displacement of the present. I don’t believe this is an accident on the part of the writer, it gives the text room to conceive and reflect, that intense space of breathing, turning inwards in awareness of that breath and how it has rhythmically kept time in conjunction with past feelings, both positive and negative, while allowing for a possible reconstitution of breath in the many futures yet unrealized.

Some of the poems are cautionary. The voice does not want to present fantasy and carelessly throw you to the wind. It wants you to be aware, ever aware, of the dangers of possibility, while it urges you to move forward through the reflections and into the explosive and often catastrophic maw of time.

This is the voice of a person who does not just examine ash or reflect on its divination, but, with childlike curiosity, “slips from slaughter’s nest [and] follow[s] the trail of ashes” (21) to an elusive endpoint she simply calls “home” (21). When the narrative occupies the body of “every cum covered porn star you’ve ever jacked off to,” (25) she is still looking beyond the present into future possibilities which roar forward through adamant instruction and unabashed demand: “subdue your hunger, eat the rage you carry” (27).

This is as much a book of desire as it is a tale of warning. Perhaps the sentiments that carry throughout each poem are best articulated in the opening line to the poem Inamorata: “If it’s love you covet don’t forget what you paid for” (29).

Take Bennett’s box of people, in it there is a universality to the specificity, bad boyfriends and good boyfriends, mental and physical illness, mothers and fathers—both dead and alive, both good and bad—grandparents, births of children, children growing, pets…also both dead and alive. Take the box of souvenirs and sympathize with the millions of homes the voice enters, occupies, and leaves. Then sit at a bar, order yourself a drink, talk to a stranger, and, cautiously, hope for the best.