BOUND. Candice Wuehle. Inside The Castle, 2018. Not paginated.
“I love to be so clear / birds / fly into me / and break their necks.” So writes Candice Wuehle in her 2018 poem BOUND, and we as readers can easily disregard that dangerous clarity, replace it with a more dangerous obscurity that comes and goes in waves. The poem (it’s called a unified poem in the front matter, and certain threads like the frequent appearance of a personality known as “NoOne” do establish a unifying strut work throughout) does set up lines of sight for the reader that are at oblique angles and tease at the notion of complete thoughts. Being the first text I have read of Wuehle’s, there was the inevitable learning process that takes place when learning a poet’s style: the deeper the form and content, the steeper the learning curve.
An ethereal atmosphere of witchcraft (Sycorax from The Tempest is mentioned early), seances, intimations of the circular architecture of Hell, all populate Wuehle’s poem but not in a heavy-handed immature way. These elements just seemed to be the grammar of how this particular mind interprets the world and accounts for the unexplainable. I got the feeling when I was finished reading the book that the surface area of the unexplainable had actually increased, not decreased, but that this increase was not inauspicious or unpleasant; it was like a hidden entry into a plush, unfamiliar chamber echoing with a woman’s voice telling me stories in airy, accented dream-lingo. Accented because it is still English but there is a palpable otherness about the phrases and sentences. Footholds (mindholds?) are not necessarily rare in the book but they are oddly shaped for your body parts to lock into and get purchase.
Definitive statements I can make about the action of the poem: the speaker is an English teacher, is a woman, lives in Iowa, has a peculiar relationship with her mother. But beyond that there is such a wide expanse of stormy fantasy and verbal experimental looseness that you lose a full picture of a speaker. I happen to like the musicianship of curious linguistic constructions like “my sort of spectacular is a sevenfold sequence / artifact of the iris” or “Prim-veined vorlage of my own apron-cosmology” or—
This poem was not written in high-definition. This poem was not written until after all the angels fell and fuzzed the orbs of LED lights. New words. This poem promised to undergo a conversational course in any language you were speaking natively in order to inquire after your country’s crops. This poem knew the smaller it got the tighter the doors it could slip under. This dream stutters. This poem has extra ta-at-tongues. This dream is a fat mute with glue on its eyelashes. This dream is like, bangbang, this poem was like, am I in this paragraph or that one? This poem is sorry in advance for the day you dialed Amherst into GPS and GPS broadcast this poem. This dream has never taken a photograph a funeral only the future:
Poems should not mean but be, we’re admonished, and the being of BOUND is so magical and tonally fascinating that the urge to forge meaning out of what we’re reading passes away with little pain for the going. If you are the type of reader who needs poems to have a carapace of sense, for them to have a minimum of playful dream logic or incantatory rhythm, BOUND will probably not be for you. Reading this book, imagining the sound of the words and having heard Wuehle read from her forthcoming novel Monarch on YouTube, I was put slightly in mind of Laurie Anderson monologues: intelligent, sibylline, feminine utterances delivered over a powerful sound system with video projections on the wall.
BOUND was a good intro, I perceive, for the novel, or at least I am treating it as such. The intro arrived just in time in a fusion of kismet. A phenomenon happens when you’ve never heard of a writer and the split second after you do things just align and there’s a pulse of fame that you’re present to see, photos of their big novel just appear everywhere online the very week that you order it. So discovering Wuehle, and acquiring her poetry book by the skin of my teeth just before this burst of publicity happens carries a rare charge of readerly pleasure.