In Joan Retallack’s new manuscript, we are led with a firm hand through conundrums of time. In listing short and infinite variables of time we are warned “Don’t let any of this distract you.” THE REINVENTION OF TRUTH Fables, Moral Tales, and Other Awkward Constructions is an indulgence in the irony of how poetry could be, a supreme form of distraction, of swerving away from whatever is locked in view, (in time).
Retallack opens up the feeling of not having enough time or calculating what we have time for. What emerges or nudges through is the possibility for attention, in which no topic is too wide or iconic. Awkwardness is hailed like a cab, ready to move. We are guided in through grammar we might take for granted. Retallack writes “I will be your personal pronoun for the duration of this sentence. You will be my personal pronoun for the duration of this sentence. It’s all about remaining in motion, avoiding collision.”
Retallack is Dante-like while probing contemporary consciousness as constant taste bud shout-outs of exciting realizations and calm proclamations: “the untimely must occur in real time regardless of one’s level of angst.”
As the champion of both the procedure and the errata, of finding “meaning in misspelled words,” Retallack confronts the discomfort mixed with the realm of critique alongside decisive referents, whether to Hieronymus Bosch or to a mysterious pronoun. “The surviving Theys could not talk about it themselves due to the nature of impersonal pronouns.” In demonstrating how to dialogue in a raucous way with her choice of referents, Retallack turns canons un limp when working towards what is unclear, what is assumed. Notably, we gather the struggle in what nearness can be approximated from a referent.
The “imaginative excesses” are voices of jubilant and defiant marginalia. Unresolving the question if we can see and call out the unreliable narrators then is the narrative more reliable? I feel stumped and exhilarated at the same time. Reading has never been more visible.