Rereading The Intangibles by Elaine Equi, during the pandemic, it suddenly reads like a meditation, yet it was published “before” in 2019. Well, it matches the feeling of ennui of the pandemic, police brutality, and the more overarching panic of the climate crisis. This is also true of a lot of poetry I read now, Because of my state of mind, and I am sure others would agree (desperate/bored/searching/hopeful/raw/terrorized), we are also mesmerized by poetry and what poets have to say.
What Equi has to say in The Intangibles is as straightforward as she’s always been. From her titular poem: “Prove you’re not a robot / Answer the question: / What color is the silver basket?”
Her poems are directed outwards but also fold endlessly in on themselves. They are playful in their sense of what it feels like to be confined, in quarantine, yes, and even before the quarantine period we are currently in even happened. From her poem “Faces” we see ourselves and others in a bleak, yet hopeful way: “I love to watch / the dough of faces / flower.”
This book slays with amazing titles. Here are some: “Deep In The Rectangular Forest,” “Ode To Weird,” “Ghosts and Fashion,” “Home On The Range” (okay, not such a weird title, but a very exquisite and wonderful poem), “Granular Time/Granular Distance,” and “Looking Out The Window In A Novel.”
Each of these poems blossoms into a novel (and not a virus).
The Intangibles by Elaine Equi. Coffee House Press, 2019.
Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson’s first book of poems is Mezzanine, from Finishing Line Press, 2019. She also has work forthcoming in Sleet, and another book from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Oregon.