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Lisa Fishman, Flower Cart, Ahsahta Press, $17.50 (paper)
I didn’t begin Lisa Fishman’s Flower Cart at the beginning or finish at the end. This seemed in the spirit of thing-finding that drives the book; even the title is taken from a billboard. “Well sometimes an object may be put to use,” one speaker muses. Some of these poems interact with photographs of found documents—a notebook “for speed and efficiency,” a 1910 workbook called Trees I Have Seen, parts of which have been left blank. In these pieces Fishman stands silently and points; she herself is a reader of what we are reading. What’s found in rubbish bins can also be “found” on the page: “There is so much that happens / in the little words.” That goes for language as well, which the poet retrofits to new purposes even as she produces it, treating letters as objects: “o, o // I unhooked these from the wool / border / in order to hear / out.” This kind of play may satisfy the hand organizing the page, but ultimately Fishman proves a sharper reader than writer of incomplete stories. The silences in her poems aspire to the use of blankness in the texts they speak to, as when the sentence “Do not kneel” appears alone on a page. They rarely achieve this, perhaps because time and anonymity have intervened in the older texts. But Fishman succeeds in facilitating a conversation between her poems and found materials, erasing context in order to distort language, over which she otherwise exerts fine control.
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