Parts Per Trillion, by Claudine Nash

Reviewed by Caroline Reddy


Aldrich Press, 2016

Claudine Nash’s Parts Per Trillion is a collection of hermetic poetry that authentically embodies the human condition. Universal themes such as death, grief, longing and healing are deconstructed in a heartfelt and witty manner. Readers sink into philosophical realms where they hover and slip between half thoughts, somberly inspect unfinished business and speak unspoken words.

The psychological and existential notion of clinging, while longing to let go, threads throughout the collection. “Fine Print,” orbits the remnants of archival memories that lament “empty mood states” and “warped perceptions of reality.” We are advised that if we mull over infinite recollections we will be “spinning into loops and circles.”

Often, in poems like Hold That Thought, we linger in the subconscious and are instructed to “slip them into the sea as the tide sets out” and “become old school gangsters and make some silence.” In Insomnia we puckishly envision “the stalled night as nothing but a school girl playing hopscotch on the clock.”  Through reflection, stillness and “Micro moments,” the poet’s sagacious voice dissects our hearts and awakens our neurological palette.

Nash’s innate scientific lens transcends whimsical nostalgia and sentimental idealism. Yet, among the quantum trace of atoms and “subpar acoustics,” there is sincere delight in the humdrum of daily life. We explore ruminations in staff meetings and shopping carts;  new hair products often convey the same intensity as when one might “hemorrhage a sunset.”

Impermanence is often illustrated through natural phenomena. Seasons are noted by “last decade’s ice-storm” in Parts Per Trillion and again, in Bark Callus:  “laid layers of dried/stems and roots/over this grief/ Here seasons later/with this simple strand of/words, you peel back my/wooden skin, you touch/the delicate tissue that/survived beneath/ so mercifully, I feel.”

The poet shifts brilliantly between the sweeping cadence of loss–from a cosmic place of spiritual surrender to the callousness and cruelty of time–and unsettled spaces in between, which, suspend the freedom to lift upwards or motion forward. Like the phantom that floats and rattles about in The Problem With Loving Ghosts, Nash’s lyrical imagery, and well-composed observations will haunt her audience long after they have finished reading her poems.

Caroline Reddy was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1978, and lived in Tehran and Paris before moving to New York in 1986. She has a background in education and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. She has published three articles for Empty Hand Zen Center, including a review on Iranian musician, Amir Vahab. Three of her short stories have appeared in Breadcrumbs Magazine, and she and has read for two of their events. Caroline is also a member of For the Love of Words, a small writing community in New Rochelle, New York that has performed in local art festivals. Her novel Legacy (in progress) is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story of an Iranian-American girl and her desire to find and connect to vatan (homeland).

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