OPENING AND CLOSING NUMBERS by ANNY BALLARDINIALLEN BRAMHALL Reviews
Opening and Closing Numbers by Anny Ballardini
(Moria Poetry, Chicago, 2005). Available as pdf here
I little knew what to expect with this book, which is a good start. I know Anny Ballardini mainly from her blog, where she highlights the work of others more often than her own. The poems here, I discover, vary in approach, or, I want to say, flow within different contexts. I see her process as one of dynamic absorption and expression.
Many of the poems in this book share a dailiness that one might've learned from William Carlos Williams, a gritty acceptance of local present events. Other works are dreamier, more disjointed and, well, hallucinogenic. Some exist within the context of influence, most notably the influence of paintings and of her reading. Her poems register and explore both the outer world and the inner. That exploration, based in curiosity, sounds to me like play. Play, we have come to realize, is a learning skill.
Without resorting particularly to humour, Anny's poems employ a certain good cheer, even the darker ones do. I detect no emotional heroism of the sort suffusing much poetry now. That segmented and impervious persona that we meet poem after unrisky poem offered by the dull journals and big poetry publishers appears not at all here. Anny commits to no formula as she writes, she has adventures.
Regarding context, these lines strike me as emblematic, by contrast, to what I mean:
“we're not listening or like to have our heads filled
because of minds protections of other minds”
I think Anny is unafraid of those projections. She allows distance to occur, vantage, but also warmth and nearness. The book begins with an apparently unfinished sequence of number poems. In these, she ruminates and riffs on numbers, like Stein and Creeley together. I find this sequence inscrutable in the way I find numbers inscrutable. Relationships and patterns divulge or disappear. In its way, it is a philosophic piece. It thinks in words.
I find that dreams and memory play strong in the work here. A poem called “Cows”, dedicated to her father, recalls a modest memory, an encounter with some cows. Time is bent closer with a druggy sort of skew as this vignette runs its little absurdity. The event's presence presses into a vision in words, as close as you can read:
“it took me some time to get my heart to a slower beat
to let my head be freed from the heat to breathe
& to distance those round beastly eyes from me”
Note the closeness! That closeness situates in a nervy sensitivity that I think takes some courage to muster. Done without the squeal of the Egotistical Sublime, without implemented drama. I was surprised (knowing no better) at the restraint as well as the strength of these poems.
Opening and Closing Numbers taps out at 170 pages. I like its play of extent. Largely written in a prosy ease, with long lines, to me it invites a slow reading, two or three poems at a time. I enjoyed the honest effort and poetic commitment in this book. It is a print-on-demand publication, available at http://www.moriapoetry.com. As a further part of the new publishing model, a pdf can also be had at that site.
Allen Bramhall has published one book, Simple Theory (Potes & Poets Press, 2002), maintains an electrifying blog called Tributary, and shares a birthday with Herman Melville, Jerry Garcia and Lt. William Clark.