Oyster Boy Review 19  
  Fall 2010
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Moving Deeper into the Veils: Jocelyn Emerson's Sea Gate

David Need

Jocelyn Emerson's Sea Gate
  Sea Gate.
Jocelyn Emerson.
Alice James Books, 2002.
72 pages, $12.95 (paperback).
ISBN: 1882295358.

Jocelyn Emerson's wonderful collection of poems Sea Gate gives evidence of the continued value of serious poetic inquiries into issues normally left to philosophical diction. Taking sea, shore, and river, but also mourning as her proximate subjects and primary metaphors, Emerson explores the relations of self and world that surface and haunt expressive gesture.

This is poetry capable of concise grace:

As slightly as the routes of stars
oak leaves fell on the lake
as part of the rain's work.

More often though Emerson's sentences are long, full of parenthesis or ellipsis, with a driving rhythm reminiscent of Derrida's early prose.

It is also a poetry inflected by both the spoken tempers and plain thing-words of American poetry and the abstract music of late-twentieth-century continental critical thought, a poetry that modulates between the language of migration and weather, and the abstract vectors of sign, iteration, desire, and erasure.

Like Rilke, Emerson goes deep into the double-bind that marks being and language. And like Rilke, she finds an ecstatic transport finally in which double-bind reveals itself as "voluminous ellipsis," a full openness where, subsiding, she can fill the simple and minute with passion:

    Listen to the scale of the varied day,
shaken singer, to the charred song
of the particle and of the mineral ash
still and elemental in the whistling dark.

And still share in mourning:

  In a manifest world broken by rough claim, flesh—

  earth's share—is scored by all those no longer living now.

Find this book, be touched and amazed.