rev. of Sky Open Again by Gian Lombardo

Issue #73
Fall 1997

Sky Open Again
 Poems by Gian Lombardo. Dolphin-Moon, $10.00 paper. Reviewed by Priscilla Sneff.

The prose poem, constructed of sentences rather than lines, is a more liquid sort of solid than other poems. More like glass that is, molten, mobile, globby than crystal, the prose poem makes do without enjambment, relying instead on gelatinous processes internal to and constitutive of the sentences and paragraphs, including the control of syllogistic movement, to organize and energize it. In this collection of prose poems by Gian Lombardo, the result is an intense eddy of language, a substantially lyrical thing. Look, for example, at the poem “Satisfaction Not Required”: “Animals have always been wary of snares, especially of ones set in mid-air, ostensibly to catch light, or maybe a breeze. Children have always been determined to misspell a word when it is convenient for them to do so. On the mesa, it’s all too frequently the ‘sun’s in the sky’ being the same as ‘the page is in the book’ being not the same.”

Here rhyme (wary/snares/mid-air; snares/ones/breeze) and parallelism (animals/children; always been/always been/all too frequently . . . being; being the same/being not the same) organize the paragraph into sonic units that interweave to construct a larger and quite complex sonic unit that “makes sense” to the ear quite apart from its semantic meaning. Yet the poem itself critiques or at least complicates this sort of reading: voice or image “breeze” or “light” are clues that we are in the presence of snares; they are but the
ostensible intention of the window in the poem and of the poem. What is the real intent?

The poem I’ve just quoted is from the first, and my favorite, section of the book, called “Under the Tongue,” set in a Southwestern desert landscape. Here, in the words of the poem “Warm,” “there are lush worlds and there are burnt worlds . . . And when it is dark you have the grace of not seeing which world you step into.” In another poem, Lombardo writes, “I don’t want to look too closely.” These poems deliberately dispense partial views, tolerate cloudinesses, thwart an easy and automatic forward movement they are compositions of “the new sentence,” to use Ron Silliman’s term and while the poems work together and collectively resonate to form a retroactive narrative, they also always force the reader to shift back from that narrative into an awareness of the language that composes it that is, back and forth between the burnt world of desert and the lush world of language.

Priscilla Sneff has published poems in Ploughshares, The Yale Review, Sulfur,
and other magazines. She teaches at Tufts University.