Winner of the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize
In a series of poems quiet but savage—in the many senses of that word—Gabriella Klein lays bare the prospects of an individual in times of ecological and personal upheaval. These poems are gyroscopic, telescopic, microscopic. Insects and universes each are as grand and intimate as the other.
In Land Sparing, the human and the planet are in a relationship, neither theoretical, biological nor even spiritual but an actual relationship: personal, erotic, possessive and tender. The stars, the forest, mud, a daughter, the Chinook wind, a honeybee, the sea, a universe—they all have as much agency and presence in this work as the poet/speaker herself. In couplet, stanza and monostich, Gabriella Klein gathers together all her kind-hearted faculties. She is brave enough to be desperate, agitated, wrecked, in love. There is a music so grounded yet so light that one wants to believe this tricky and fraught relationship is going to survive even against what seem now like steep odds indeed.
The poems in Land Sparing seem to issue from a remnant species of startling, heartbreaking intelligence. “Earth,/ your love spells me. I will rake the path clean.” Remote, at once clear and inscrutable, they signal a loneliness that is planetary in scope. As she shifts registers, Gabriella Klein echolocates us without fail in her exquisite end time.
There’s a bit of the mathematician wandering the spare landscapes of Gabriella Klein’s debut volume of poetry, Land Sparing—and of the scientist, and of the cartographer, too. It’s in the precision of the diction, and it’s in the etched density of the syntax. Even the “colorless light” of oblivion—’Earth, / you are a ghost maker’—gets nailed down.
Earthbound and spare, luminous and tugging at the cosmos, Gabriella Klein’s poems tender the galaxies — of stars and ghost town weathers, of lawless laws and temporality. These are poems scored to a ‘frequency of green ascending,’ enacting a future perfect even as they attend deeply and firmly to the present, to the unfolding possible, the edges always on the cusp of disappearing.
Klein is earth-struck, star-struck, lovestruck, grief-struck. Poetry books are often memoirs of a keenly observed, deeply felt life and we often get a self-portrait of the author. Klein seems to be the living and dying of it all herself, and while drawn into her enigmatic, intense story, her magic is to enlist the reader for fellow traveling through the mystery of shared, overwhelming reality.
‘”To live rejoicing and true-footed. / A common prayer.’ So begins a radiant debut, Land Sparing, Gabriella Klein’s sensual, intelligently felt lyric which turns our attention to a shining eco-poetical awareness, rooted in the beauty of the profoundly earth-bound yet anthropocentric. Exploring the mediated experiences of a hybridized natural world, Klein layers a lexical elegance of the empirical (‘allometry and isometry’) with waves of passion coloring the intricacies of our relationships, at once ironically personal and playfully self-referential.
Gabriella Klein earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her husband and daughter in Santa Barbara, California …