Reviewed by Cody Stetzel
The Quieting is an anthology of ten poems published by Platypus Press. Each poem meditates on the meaning of softness and light. But what are we to make of an anthology of only ten total poems that falls under twenty pages? I find the limited approach to the theme refreshing. Easily, one could compose this same anthology with dozens, hundreds of authors. However, this micro-anthology is well worth the read.
This is not an exhaustive work that leaves you breathless. Instead, I find myself thinking deeply about specific pieces. Two works that stood out to me are “Two birds—One stone” by S.A. Khanum and “At Night” by Anis Mohjani. Both of these are written in voices that echo for a long time. The concision of the anthology enabled me to pay more attention to poems that halt within the flow (to use a water metaphor, a theme heavily-laden within the anthology). A poem, for example, like Terrence Abrahams’ “Just between us,” becomes memorable when it is paired with the noisy contrast of “At Night”: “Take every dream, crack its shell, / watch the yolk run down your fingers, now // take a hunting rifle, run outside—.”
This collection catalogues softness, encouraging readers to become hyper-aware of the verbs employed in each poem. What are the actions in its language, and why are these chosen? Whether its “At Night” with its “pulling,” “trading,” “knowing,” and “trimming,” or “Two birds—One stone,” and its “have,” “burn,” “scream,” “take,” “smash,” “crack,” “watch,” and “running,” the anthology seems vastly aware of the actions it invokes. The most common verb in the anthology is “knowing,” and that seems like a testament to the flexibility of softness here; that in frequently using an expository verb such as “know”—one that always precedes other elements and desires—the authors in this anthology have chosen its introductions as particularly quiet. I wonder in what situations “burning” and “cracking” would be soft—cooking?—without also having the undertones of being loud and large; I’m attracted to the potency.
The natural elements ripe throughout this anthology enable the reader to be drawn, and guided, through a menagerie of environments. I’ve lived by coastlines, in densely-forested areas, and in dry prairie-lands—it is hard to capture the softness that these lands invoke largely because the softness is tender and notable through its ability to enable deeper rumination. I think of Basho’s Knapsack Journal when I think about describing the nature of this anthology:
“And this aesthetic spirit is to follow the Creative, to be a companion to the turning of the four seasons. Nothing one sees is not a flower, nothing one imagines is not the moon. If what is seen is not a flower, one is like a barbarian; if what is imagined is not a flower, one is like a beast. Depart from the barbarian, break away from the beast, follow the Creative, return to the Creative.”
Allow the poems to overtake you, and when you finish the anthology, allow yourself time to come back to them.
Cody Stetzel is a staff reviewer for Glass Poetry Press Journal and has an interview and review forthcoming from Five2One magazine. He received an MA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Davis, and has had his poetry published in the East Coast Literary Review, Neovox, and the Stormcloud Poet’s Anthology.