Lyric Reviews G by Emmalea Russo

Emmalea Russo’s G is doing several things at once.

By employing a hemispheric division, creating borders reminiscent of a hem, the poems’ form resembles, on one side, a raised garden bed. On the facing side, the prose-poem rests on the bottom of the page, creating a ground. As in a painting, the ground creates, not a negative space of whiteness, but a full sky. The poem becomes a landscape.

Russo doesn’t rhyme, rather, she takes language apart. Getting down to the DNA, she rips it up, puts it back together, and makes it new. She lets language get out of control, like a garden someone is urging the gardener to weed. The narrator seems to insist that maybe the garden doesn’t need weeding, maybe it doesn’t need control. Maybe the garden, and the language, is doing something new and interesting now that it is ruined.

The poems are peopled by more than one voice. There is a narrator, and there is another, glitching, decaying voice, that of G. At times, the voice of G argues with the narrator, sometimes it parrots or takes over the voice of the narrator, and sometimes it falls silent. The poems sometimes contain both or more of these voices. There are echoes from one poem to the next, elaboration, or a deteriorating collaboration.

Line breaks that fall in the center of some words allow the voice of G to come alive, to converse and argue with the narrator while reminding the reader that G exists, G has something to say. G becomes inescapable, haunting the narrator.

Russo adds in prose that appears after the poems that there exists a person we know as G, someone out from underneath she had struggle. It becomes clear that G is many things: a former, possibly toxic lover, a garden, and something else, a nervousness, an anxiety. Sometimes it is possible to imagine that G is a plant with which the narrator, the gardener, is grappling. It is alive, sentient, but also fluid, shape-shifting, or plural. The reader becomes sensitive to the letter so that any word beginning with it raises an alarm. Among the poems is a sense that the narrator is attempting to put a ruined body back together, their own or someone or something else’s. They are attempting to realign energies that have been throttled out of equilibrium.

Russo’s G is, at times, a garden that becomes theory in practice, returning to preverbal subjectivities. At times, it is a physicality made into theory. It is a transmutation, a gene mutation.

The laborious work of the garden desanitizes and dirties the garden, returning to its dirty roots. This is no Victorian pastime, prescribed to women diagnosed with nervous disorders in an attempt to make them calm, docile, obedient. Instead, G makes of the garden rigorous thought, exhausting and foul work.

Even so, the poems of G, while haunted by women’s work, women’s hands, are also decidedly rejecting those prescriptions. The narrator again and again wrests control from G, control over their body and their space, choosing wild ruin over civilized, sanitized landscape design. There are many different kinds of alive, many different ways for us to be alive in the world, on the earth, in the dirt.

G By Emmalea Russo Cover Image
ISBN: 9780996002592
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Futurepoem - December 15th, 2018

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