Dark~Sky Society by Ailish Hopper
New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2014; 97pp
Reviewed by Wesley Rothman
We are fragmented—we fragment ourselves—move through time as one fragment then another and an other and so on—we fragment history—and poems are their own fragments—of existence and/or the poet and/or language that the poet wrangles with some relationship to a fragment of existence. Rarely are these fragments actually clean-cut, nameable, identifiable. People are messy, poems are hacked up and hacked out pieces of us or what we try to name.
Ailish Hopper’s Dark~Sky Society is a sturdy showing of this fragmentation. Nearly every poem possesses a scissored syntax and form, its progression chopped into moments of clarity that blur over and through one another; and by the end of the book, a wholeness seems identifiable, but the fragmentary nature of it obscures certainty.
If you’re a reader that eagerly seeks content, something concrete and easily familiar, this book, its fragmentation, will challenge you; these poems do not seek to comment or deliver verdicts but give us a thrumming glimpse in a mirror shard. The book—for those who desire groundedness—shuffles fragments of thought and observation about Blackness, Whiteness, Color, History, Imagination, Sanity, the Mind, Ignorance, a Father. Hopper’s arc—if there needs to be one in a book of poems—fluctuates between inward and outward reflection, moves from a present-history toward future-history, what we as Americans and as people might now be able to shift or reshape.
With fragments of references, riffs, and facts, Hopper has built a constellation of our human fragments—our identities, our memories, our facts (how they are manipulated), our loves, our fears, our questions—enough of a constellation we can steer ourselves onward, but a constellation that shifts as we live, and shifts from reader to reader. Dark~Sky Society may seem unstable—fragment-to-fragment—but its stability involves the reader, relies on the reader.