Strange Couple from the Land of Dot and Line by S.Marie Clay
Orange Monkey Publishing, 2014; 94 pp
Reviewed by Tyler Mills
S.Marie Clay’s Strange Couple from the Land of Dot and Line is an adventurous collection that meditates on domestic spaces through a lens tinged with a touch of surrealism. At times sharing kinship with the poems of Chad Sweeney—who is quoted in the epigraph of the first section—and at times sharing kinship with Anne Sexton at her most mythic, Clay’s poems are beautiful, quiet suspensions in time. Strange Couple from the Land of Dot and Line invites us in, as participants in the game of language.
The lyric poems of the collection are like mobiles that turn slowly, revealing the relationship between a mother and a daughter that develops through gesture, song, and metaphor. In “You Only Truly Understand One Room,” the metaphor becomes a way of understanding the world:
You are buried in the chaise lounge
no more alive than your wheelchair. Your two
great wheels shake.
It is your legs
trying to escape.
It has come time
to rename the others.
Door: dead end
bed: rusted wagon (1-11).
Metaphor stripped from narrative is a world-making list: the “Door” is a “dead end” but also a kind of “window.”
In one of the more diagrammatic poems such as “Prayers Often Get Caught in the Ceiling Fan and Spun. Check the Bulb for Breaks,” the epigraph asks us, “Is this an impossible figure?”:
The poem itself appears to move off the two-dimensional page so that it is almost sculptural. Many other poems of Strange Couple from the Land of Dot and Line are concrete poems presented as shadows of hand gestures, such as “Hand Shadow I: The Bear”:
Through a dynamic interplay, the language of gesture becomes the poem that shadows it. A combination of lyric and experimental modes, S.Marie Clay’s Strange Couple from the Land of Dot and Line is an innovative collection that summons us to think about how we perceive the world.