This is highly recommended verse, both for its generosity (the iterability of Fraser’s poetic sensibility is seemingly endless, and produces a book of poetry that reads like five or six books in one), its novelty (poems that play with typeface and font-size and negative space are composed with more care and foresight here than almost anywhere else), and for its fierce, unyielding intelligence and bravery.
For a poet, how strange that this ready state should be rare. But we’re instructed these days to pare our work to a glistening thing that must be at once skin and marrow, which must entertain yet contain a mystical wholeness, must tease with surface ambiguity but at some not-very-deep level know something in particular, something sure. Fraser, though, unclusters meaning, as if fast-forwarding through constellations. In her ruleless and multiplying reading, there simply is no tight underlying system such as our economic age encourages us to seek. Instead, Fraser gives us “muzzlels” — the wonder of an extra letter wriggling into the middle of a familiar word and making it alien, otherwise. She remains
resistant to a fact that can
uninterested in anything that hinders flight.
The battles Fraser used to fight (against the exclusion of women writers from the modernist canon, against the notion that only “unmasked” writing might aid the feminist cause) may be underwater now (I won’t say over), but her writing still acts as corrective against the current.
The poems in movable TYYPE show Fraser tuned in to higher frequencies: “In empty expectancy,” she writes, “what movement may reveal itself stepping from behind the cypress sending signals out to its planetary rings.” Such heightened mindfulness calls forth an enlarged subjectivity. Fraser has resisted the lyric impulse, grounded in the poet’s ego: even in her autobiographical poems, the self seems effaced (thus the experience of 9/11, which has yielded much overwrought writing, is pared away to haunting spareness: “You will always be there and it will be collapsing”). What bubbles up through the “impersonal” surfaces of her poems is an unmistakable sensibility, generous in its sympathies and restless in its explorations.