KAROLINA ZAPAL Engages
] Exclosures [ by Emily Abendroth
(Ahsahta Press, Boise, ID, 2014)
Because the title of Emily Abendroth's book, ] Exclosures [, leaves a lot excluded, to use her term, I found myself, as I read through it vigorously and specifically—because it is a book that requires both speed and a detailed-orientation—searching for a title that would include what appears inside the brackets, which also appears as blank space (sometimes, not exactly here, as what fills the space are the words "book" and "leaves," and this book leaves), or, to keep this sentence running, as everything, which is what keeps this sentence, and every sentence, " ". I finally discovered the gem in Exclosure ] 26 [, the last one, which animates the reading by being a title least welcome to the exclusion, only to be first welcome to the inclusion if backwards worked that way. So imagine as the title, "...To find a viable experience of the world/ divorced from obedience to it" (lines 4-5), and read the book with this cover-story in mind, only to come across ] Exclosures [ in the ultimate section, remembering that you hadn't seen it before; then, begin to connect that the final viable human experience is to exclude other viable human experiences or simply, other viable humans. The question that results asks, are we in, at, for, from, the final viable human experience? Or maybe the question that results asks, which preposition fits the question? Either way, Abendroth's book, ] Exclosures [, responds yes, I think so, although there's hope to re-imagine these final stages by engaging with a poetics that exposes them and, through this exposure, returns life not to individuals, but to community.
Let us rewind to the running sentence. If a noun is running, say, a human being or an appliance, it generally means that noun is working. Therefore, a sentence, which embodies a noun, must be working if it's running; furthermore, I think the verb can be opened up to include post-acting prepositions such as working on, working with, working for, etc. This being said, ] Exclosures [ secures home for a wealthy amount of long sentences, which aren't necessarily run-on, as they are grammatically correct, rather running sentences, ones working for the good of the poetic community to reveal a spirit of activist inspiration. Let me clarify with an example. In the last section, the one quoted previously, the following scene arises: "They were relatively young to the globe in the scope of history as it stood and they were working/ hard not to assume that what is or was unrepresented actually is or was unrepresentable" (lines 8-9). Not only does this sentence have something, or, in this case, someone, or more ones, working within it, the length of the sentence produces a stretch of history that parodies the youth participating in the scene, for the youth haven't experienced time as long as the sentence. The length also parallels the duress the youth must feel as they attempt to abstain from a presumption of failure at lingual representation, even though the mere size of the sentence should have catered to this representation and made it a success. In addition, the sentence integrity works with "working" ending the first line, as it forces the reader to acknowledge that the young are always working, though maybe they're unemployed, though maybe the work's left mute, and that it is hard not to assume...a lot of things, for we are instinctively judgmental beings. Another way to look at the sentence's effort is to see it as an exposure of the hope aforementioned in the previous paragraph, hope that the unrepresented might one day be represented, that is, if the youth can keep their assumptions from rising to the surface of poetics and translate them to truth through evicted ignorance by extensive research, as Abendroth does in ] Exclosures [.
To stay loyal to the verbs, "to run" and "to work," and the dynamic noun, "exposure," which the book does in earnest, I find it necessary to run with the idea of exposure as I wind deeper into my engagement with this literary device. I'm about to disclose another infidelity to the title of ] Exclosures [. After you—I should keep this in first person to avoid displacing blame—after I read many of the sections' headings, which mimic the title, but alter it slightly to exclose numbers rather than the exclosures themselves, the motivation behind which will be mentioned later, I start to morph the word into exposures, into ] Exposures [. The first time this occurred was on Exclosure ] 21 [, and once the word formed in my mind, I could not un-form it (or un-inform it), and thus, I began to witness every phrase as if it were a shocking debut of a secret. "[327 Distant relatives]" (line 2) that "were still missing from or unaccounted for" (line 3) are exposed to the world (by a secondary party because, being missing, they cannot do it themselves), which urges me to really see them for what they are and for what they could be if they were represented: they could be close relatives, or they could be found and accounted for. Not only this, but reading with "exposures" floating in my near consciousness, I manage each bracketed item as defining the next; the brackets expose an "are." In other words, "[Underserved populations]" (line 7) are "[evacuated prisoners]" (line 8), which are "[displaced residents]" (line 9), which are "[those seeking amnesty]" (line 10), etc. This reading, with the brackets meaning "are," make more sense than the brackets meaning "and" or the brackets meaning "or." The former generates an overwhelming layering that functions to build one on top of the other, but not connect them, and the latter makes the reader feel as if one's siding with the enemy, letting it off easy by forgetting one crime when reading the next. The "are" creates a rope of evidence, a timeline of sorts, with which to condemn the enemy to...prison?
I commented previously that I would talk about the exclosure of the numbers in the section headings, which I believe to be a satisfactory conclusion to this less-than-satisfactory analysis of Abendroth's poetics (I haven't even touched on the brilliant sound play in " " throughout the book!). Since Abendroth's concern floods the political stance surrounding the prison system in America, which convicts numbers of people, a community of people, who are rather harmless in their crimes, for the supposed safety of the individual, the exclosed numbers act two important roles. In both these roles, the numbers represent people, and through this representation, impersonalize them. First, numbers of people being excluded in print show numbers of people being excluded from freedom, real freedom, not just freedom to roam the page. Second, the numbers of people excluded arranges them in tighter confinement; ] [ lets on less space than [ ]. Although both types signify jailing, the latter at least opens to the numbers on the inside. And Abendroth, by placing the numbers in ] [, hits a moral chord with the readers and stimulates them to think they should also open to the numbers on the inside, for they do not fit the shape of confinement, and neither do the ones on the inside.
Karolina Zapal's writing interests include expounding on multifarious voices of middle-class America, including children hiding the egos of their mothers as well as hidden by the egos of their mothers, people righted or wronged by religion, even the best voices of her old, bad poems. She's also attentive to exploring her childhood in Poland, which was, at the time, in the shadows of a dictatorship. These interests lead to her currently working on two full-length creative projects, "Giving Voices" and "Polalka." Critically, she's absorbed in the realm of poetry that fails to communicate comprehensive information, the techniques behind writing but evading to inform and what stems from the evasion.