Dust, Light, and Air: Alexis Reviews Jeffrey Yang's HEY, MARFA

Guest Article by: 
Alexis

Jeffrey Yang’s Hey, Marfa presents a multifaceted look at the tiny, West Texas town of Marfa, a self-referential art town that thrives on aesthetic and feeds philosophical thought. The poet uses dense nouns and verbs juxtaposed create a surplus of image-based poems, alongside the more historical, narrative-based pieces. Yang references the town’s focus on art in poems like “Thirteen Stations” when he describes the landscape as expressing “titanium white wisps / brushed raw sienna earth”, calling to mind the names for tubes of paint. Poems like “Circle” are wistful in tone. Their spare form creates a sense of place in the vast strangeness of the desert. Throughout the collection, Yang weaves together the history of West Texas, Mexico, and Marfa, exploring the origin to a place that seems to exist in a world of its own. He writes of a character named Gunslinger Stra who tells their version of Marfa through a series of poems all titled “Stra”. In Marfa, “a quiet simplicity / settles in, to start anew or continue to lose / your way…”. He’s interested in the construction of Marfa, both the historical background and its physical parts. Descriptions of place and earth are more prevalent than people in his collection, and this seems to be part of the town’s atmosphere itself. On page 86, he writes, “There are moments of feeling / as if this town arranges itself / under a glass vitrine, as you / walk, the public assembles / somewhere out of sight…”. His journey through Marfa’s world is essentially solitary and sharpens his awareness of the town as he experiences it alone.

The pure content of the poet’s collection is dense and reflective of his meditation on the origins and actualization of Marfa. An untitled poem on page 85 takes note of Marfa’s disorienting atmosphere, recognizing its popularity on the map but claiming it is “too far out to turn into Soho”, probably due in part to its “ongoing nouveau aesthetic western” feel. Yang ends his voluminous and satisfying collection with a particularly gorgeous poem that hits softly on the spaciousness one feels in the dust, light, air, and atmosphere of Marfa. He ends with “your sleep I sail”, calling one to meditate in this place’s “uncertain manifoldness” and find a sort of settled existence there.

Hey, Marfa: Poems Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9781555978198
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - October 2nd, 2018

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