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On Tact, & the Made Up World Michele Glazer Review by Wendy Bourgeois


udging by title alone, you might predict something whimsical or even fey from Michele Glazer’s new book, like the blown glass flowers from the titular poem. Not so. These poems, although certainly elegant, are gritty, precise, and utterly unsentimental. Those glass flowers, for example, come from a guy who used to make glass eyeballs, and he and the poet both “show (their) allegiance to decay.” This is not to say that the poems lack tenderness, but rather that the extreme closeup methodology of this project makes romance impossible. In the opening line of “On religion, war, nature, and the horse,” the speaker begins: “John’s unabstracted death for me.” It seems that death has “unabstracted” the whole world of On Tact, rendering it too painfully clear. But this tight focusing starts to make objects in the visual field behave oddly, or, as the speaker puts it: “The closer you get, the more abstract.” The eye is “led to some conclusion,” and these ocular tricks, moments where “sight fails and love comes,” reveal that there is no such thing as a passive gaze. Looking changes things, both for

the looker and the looked-at, and Glazer seems determined to pinpoint the precise moment of transmutation. How does one thing become another? How does a living person become matter and memory? How does a self become a landscape? How does the slow, unconscious work of worms and fungus (and poets) make a “glowing consolation”? In the mind? These questions are turned over in the tumbler of language, until the polish gleams and you can see your face in it. We see how this works in the poem “Worm (to a rumor of lilies).” Like the Oregon Giant earthworm, Glazer digests the material of syntax into “earth casings” that are the leavings of the body, not due to anything personal like will or desire, but rather the animal “solace of repetition.” This is a gorgeous, nearly religious materialism, but it has no discernible motive and no purpose. The grandiosity of human personality—what some might call the soul—actually comes from the rankest stuff. Apparently ephemeral things like poems, familial love, and the smell of lilies (which, incidentally, have a base note similar to rotten ham) don’t burst from the ether in a spec-

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