A playful, intoxicating debut by a young poet dedicated to expanding the boundaries of lyric poetry
Monkeys, Minor Planet, Average Star
Monkeys, Minor Planet, Average Star, Gracie Leavitt’s first full-length collection, draws on rich lyric history, the love poem as prism, in an effort to create a postmodern pastoral. Leavitt’s lines—a baroque tracery, sometimes dark, teasing prose, and pronoun-packed—and unstoppable syntax define her unique poetic vision. This idyll, with its bucolic scenery, its domestic scale, its erotic charge, charges forward into an ecofeminist future.
Her heart has a huge vocabulary. The erotic frictions and syntactic torsions that make her work so exciting on the surface never linger in the abstract but always come close, close, inviting us into the play of feeling and, above all, the play of play.
Gracie Leavitt’s debut collection, Monkeys, Minor Planet, Average Star, uses R. Buckminster Fuller’s 1969 Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth as its intertext, passages from his book making up pages of Leavitt’s own. In Operating Manual, Fuller offers a critique of professional specialization and emphasizes “long distance thinking” as a way of more comprehensively addressing “spaceship earth,” the transitory home in which we all live.
Fuller’s critique amends the Stephen Hawking quotation from which Leavitt’s title is drawn: “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” Following Fuller, we might be able to understand the universe if we learn new ways to look. Leavitt’s poems are about how to look, and how to figure out what there is to see.
Leavitt’s poems attune the reader to the frame of their viewership. Her “long distance thinking” informs a poetics simultaneously devoted to engaging and subverting meaning. The first and third sections of the book, entitled “Gap Gardening” I and II respectively, employ Rosmarie Waldrop’s concept of “gap gardening,” a mode of writing that cultivates discontinuity by bringing the gap offered by the margins of a poem into its body.