Rage on Ice: A Review of Anca Vlaspolos’s Walking Toward Solstice
Norman, Oklahoma: Mongrel Empire Press, 2012.
Anca Vlasopolos’ s Walking Toward Solstice is a refreshing break from the usual fare of free verse written with conversational line breaks listing the failures of Mummy and Daddy and projecting dubious mixtures of rage and sentimentality.
On the contrary Vlasopolos’s poems are wonderful machines for the dissipation of emotion in the tradition of Eliot’s high modernism. She accomplishes this distance through a variety of devices. In the earlier pieces in the book, she employs a strict verbal economy that short-circuits effusiveness. Vlasopolos also frequently uses enjambment in a phrase which is already embedded in her sentence creating a double breaking syntax. On first reading the lines don’t seem to make sense, and this prevents the reader from simply being absorbed in the description. Narrative detail in the poems doesn’t create coherent scenes so much as clusters of metonymies relevant to the theme which is located routinely in zinger lines in the last stanza. A reader never has a chance to become lost in a mind movie of narration but remains awake for an intellectual consideration of the specific variation of the poet’s general theme which she hits again and again with humorless evangelic zeal like a frustrated piano teacher striking the correct key: humanity like everything else is a product of the grand processes of nature. Social injustice is a symptom of humanity’s role as the planet’s deadliest pathogen (“Burying the Next-door Neighbor” and “Those Who Build”). No human condition or quality finds itself outside of nature, not even the careful craft of artistic distance which can become the Olympianism of an indifferent president flying over the devastation of Katrina (“Vying with Olympians”), and the call of the cardinal “[contends] / with no less than perlman/ and beethoven” (“Vying with Olympians”).*
Vlasopolos’s deeply felt disgust with her species transmutes itself into meditations upon human limitation. Who could argue with her considerable efforts to craft insight? As I write this, last May was the 327th consecutive month to break temperature records from the twentieth century (Rolling Stone Politics, Web), and this past July was the hottest ever recorded in the continental United States.
*The poet uses lower case for the first letter of these names.
Reviewed by Hugh Tribbey