Scaffolding – Poems
By Elena Rivera
Princeton University Press – £13.95
tenderness passes by like mists in one’s head
(‘Nov. 24th (Finished Aug 3rd)
When I first stumbled upon the title of a book called Scaffolding, I have to admit to having my curiosity mighty piqued.
As the author of The Laughter of the Sphinx, Michael Palmer has since said, the book: ”represents a vibrant, exploratory addition to the venerable and diverse New York tradition of ‘city sonnets.”’ Although to what degree these eighty-two sonnets are wholly representative of one of the world’s greatest cities, is clearly paramount to readers objective, if not initial analysis and thought process of what New York fundamentally means.
It is in fact, polar to being: ”not ready to listen to one’s own nothing, ” the most grounded, albeit opaque sixth line of the poem ‘Dec. 4th (Revised N.D.).’
There again, it is some of this collection’s prime simplicity that tends to perhaps inadvertently home in the most. With such lines as:
”And when you least expect it it all comes back
I’m at a window elated by the sky
the moment where lights branched out and I was small”
””by the fall of a shadow across the ground”
The ”pollution tolerant” Lindens and Oaks
witness our delusion, we work in the dark”
(again, my italics)
one cannot help but feel lured in by something other – only to find that what ever that otherness is or was, punctuated by something we may have subliminally known all along. A poetic quality, which, for better or for worse, is what a certain amount of poetry is all about anyway.
That almost all of the poems are titled by date, eventually gets a tad wearing after a while; even if only from a premise of wanting a different vision from which to embark.
As is, these ”city sonnets” lean towards being far too mathematical – which to my mind at least, is a b-i-g shame. Reason being, some of Elena Rivera’s patterned randomness is truly beguiling:
”Clearly the idea of fairness was a sham
The failure of not being able to see
and most blindness turn to imitation not
being, the real fiction needs an audience”
The ‘real fiction’ does indeed need ”an audience,” and here’s hoping Rivera’s grows as a result hereof.