Book cover: 'Our Parenthetical Ontology' by Deborah Poe

Our Parenthetical Ontology

A selection from Our Parenthetical Ontology


There is no set of maxims more important for an historian than this: that the actual causes of a thing’s origin and its eventual uses, the manner of its incorporation into a system of purposes, are worlds apart; that everything that exists, no matter what its origin, is periodically interpreted by those in power in terms of fresh intentions; that all processes in the organic world are processes of outstripping and overcoming, and that, in turn, all outstripping and overcoming means reinterpretation, rearrangement, in the course of which the earlier meaning and purpose are necessarily either obscured or lost.

F. Nietzsche

imagine a maxim that looks like spring,
more personified in the historian’s eye,
for particularity in lilac smells.

now, when origin of time was like this:
winter leaves, winter comes again
his story spring & the associative year

study the year because there was the sensual—
the cherry blossom and the sophist who interpreted
the tree would be stripped, and the tree
would overcome, because it was becoming.

look at the way  blossoms freak
as they reinterpret and rearrange.

go ahead, pull out your hair for nothing

may night thunder? a historian’s obfuscation.

imagine a maxim which admits it’s loss.

Reader impressions

“But that’s what it wasn’t like/sometimes”: in Poe’s marvelous poems the lit and the oblique delineate the textures of the never-knowable and the known. A restless and irresistible intelligence meets an exquisitely nuanced sense of the senses. The sensual and the metaphysical, Feeling and Thinking, what she names “the sensual infrastructure” and a “parenthetical ontology,” everywhere intersect. A poetic version of what wine connoisseurs call mouthfeel—the sensation on the tongue—is in every line of this book, “dada and blahblah,” the tongue’s rejoicing in consonant and vowel. Pound’s names for the powers of poetry—melopoeia, logopoeia, phanopoeia: the music, the linguistic play, the sensory image—all smolder at a white heat throughout Poe’s stunning debut.

—Bruce Beasley
A mouthful, an electric stumble, a well-spaced lunge, Poe’s formal inquiry into the laws of settlement is a study in line breaks and trust. She is looking for a ‘between’ between sense organs and the dispossessed. She finds it. You witness her do so poem after poem. Her mindful tongue gathers the sensual (blossoms, mirrors, lakelight) refusing to hide the limits of the body within ideology. Neither Mother nor Mondrian could have structured such exquisite brushes with breath. These poems tremble like woodwinds, but Poe’s hands are on a grand piano pushing what is said against what is not. If you like to read text as musical score, you’ll love how Poe lotions language, positions it as a grin, as clench—part thigh, part tassel, part treatise.

— Lori Anderson Moseman