In Lieu of Solutions by Violet Spurlock READING AT the Poetry Project in Manhattan this past October, Violet Spurlock spoke on the relative urgency of caring about a poem: it’s poetry, so the stakes are low; but it’s poetry, so the stakes are everything. For Spurlock’s first full-length collection, In Lieu of Solutions (2023), the stakes are nothing more or less than our social world. Moving beyond a view of bodies and genders as self-fashioned and identity-driven, she forwards an understanding of a body (like a poem) as a project undertaken for common use. To experience gender and transition, In Lieu of Solutions looks outside the self: seeing herself as love does, Spurlock finds love to be a reprieve from her own point of view. The opening poem, “Epidermal Ripple Pools,” charts the welcome contradiction of seeing her own changing body described to her: We debate about my tiny titties. — You think they are getting bigger, — I think they are getting smaller. ° Predictable. — You say that I don’t see myself — From the side. ° See, that’s an argument. — You may offer me sensory details — About how you view my profile — But I process it as evidence ° (Against my perspective) — For which I am grateful Talking about what one sees alters it, both for the speaker and addressee, and a recounted dialogue brings two structural aspects of the poem to the foreground: the image and the argument. Spurlock is relentless in her pursuit of denaturalizing the poetic image. She has no hope of distilling anything to its essence—what she says is what we get, which means that by the time we get to an image, it’s already been “processed” through filters of thought and communication. Words arrange their object, composing, and a poem can compose at 100x magnification. The reader has their own hand in image formation: “Are my titties an image?” she asks. “Perhaps for you.” Looked on by a lover, such “eye-dent-titties,” à la poet and playwright Nazareth Hassan, become an interpersonal argument. Within the structure of seeing […]

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