I came to Lisa Robertson’s work not long ago and the sensation was one of uncanny discovery, that rare-but-sought-after feeling we have as readers when we say, “oh I have been looking for this, exactly this, for such a long time, without ever knowing it.” This first, powerful impression remains the best explanation I have for why I love Robertson’s poetry, and everything else I have tried to say to express it has just been embarrassing (“this poetry is so smart, I feel clumsy as a chaperone at a high school dance,” or “the classical is beautiful, but so is raunch—let’s go for a walk”).
My attempts were doomed from the beginning, of course, because anything shy of Lisa Robertson that tries to approximate Lisa Robertson is bound to come up short, because how could approximated Lisa Robertson be satisfying when we can just read Lisa Robertson? Which means excerpting her is almost as quixotic an enterprise, because one poem, or even a handful, could never do justice to the intelligence, the humor, the pure bounty of language, the depth of the art, the sense of receiving a gift that comes to you across the reading of a full volume. Here, thought and intimacy are allowed to share the same body! Here, desire is not only the vectors but the bodies that create them! Here, the present tense is an always-renewing abundance of possibility! Let’s go for a walk!
The futility of presenting an excerpt aside, this lovely moment from “Third Summer,” in 3 Summers (Coach House Books, 2016), is one I cherish:
Actual living trees are cinema
I rode through the practical and mysterious tunnel on a borrowed bicycle
many kinds of space are possible
if they are possible, they are also very probable
it was beneath the river and very cool and even
the sociality was held temporarily in abeyance
it is in itself possible
the form of a hare
is the place in the wheat where she pauses
(like a grid of empty shoes
as outside – a ways off – a stand of pine
in this way I come to perceive my life
Jeremy Allan Hawkins was born in New York City and raised in the Hudson Valley. He has been the recipient of a grant from the US Fulbright Program and teaching fellowships from the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project and the New York City Teaching Fellows. He is the author of A Clean Edge, selected by Richard Siken as the winner of the 2016 BOAAT Chapbook Prize. He lives in France.