Archipelago by Alana Siegel
Station Hill Press of Barrytown; 92 pp
Reviewed by Vladislav Frederick


Archipelago is an island of unique poetic aesthetic, boasting rich, lyrical language with complicated grammar and unexpected punctuation. Siegel’s style slides from reassuring couplets or triplets into grand paragraphs that impose a new level of gravitas, into litanic lists that accelerate the reader into breathlessly racing rhythms--this last quality in particular is exemplified by Siegel’s poem, “Dissolution Ventriloquiet.” Read aloud the excerpt that follows:

Lilith little girl big bang land locked sunsets sing things logic jewelry
The eyes, her earring
Hearing opalized
Send her to the evergreen leaves let the sun fall

Dowse her

The precision of coupled consonance at play in the first line invokes a seamless, tightly-knit feel to the language of the poem; this allows for an out-loud read that slides musically off the page, the tongue. “Eyes,” “earring,” and “hearing” o do an incredible amount of work with rhyme and rhythm, showing the the cleverness of Siegel's line breaks, how she succeeds in doubling up on words that are nearly exact rhymes by sawing them apart with breaks, giving the reader just enough pause to let the first “ing” sink in before “hearing” brings it back again.

The language of “Dissolution Ventriloquiet,” and of many other poems in Archipelago, moves so quickly that fully-fleshed visions of the imagery often have little time to coalesce; and yet, the richness of Siegel’s imagery pervades on a more raw, emotional level, forgoing comprehensive scenes for impressions, heartbeat images of feeling, her sonic-driven style capitalizing on the rich associative qualities of primal words and their individual parts, of actions and moments clashing together. 

Archipelago is a sonic marvel, its delightfully dissonant tone promising a reading experience that will haunt the language, tearing it apart before building it back up again a something new: stranger, and