[09/29/2020] Like You by Beth Roberts
Fence Books, paperback
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Review Quotes: "Beth Roberts' poems are en route and restless, glimpsing, as they do, what it is the century requires. Such glimpses take hard work with a steadying lens and the willingness to stop abruptly, to implicate oneself in the brief, severe clarity that a lens frames. Throughout her impressive first collection, Roberts' fights to keep the fine synaptical snap of perception alive amidst the world's relentless desire for a long attenuating history" -- Lia Purpura.
"Whatever the heart symbolizes -- conviction or affection -- it's clear that language demands center stage. When at an impasse, Roberts follows her words in order to find a way out of suffering or conundrum. 'As you empty the thought or fill the feel, / you surround the hole of the mouth that wells up // and understand.' Emerson posited language as the 'vehicle of thought'; in Roberts's hyped-up version, language is as much 'spectacle' as 'vehicle.' Avoiding set rhyme schemes but staying within more or less uniform stanzas, Roberts devises sonic constellations out of internal rhyme and repetition. These episodic bursts cluster in spectacular patterns. Wordplay also disperses expectations, as when 'sunsettling' stands in for the more obvious 'unsettling.' Like Clark Coolidge, whose verve depends on malapropism, neologism, and ricochet, Roberts bounces back and forth within a multivalent vocabulary." -- L.S. Klatt, Jacket Magazine
"'On a day fresh as a haircut' writes Beth Roberts, 'I left the family for the field. / I looked hard for the body.' This is a book of setting out, of looking for the body--familial, sexual, spiritual, poetic--from which we were somehow, long ago, severed. These poems inhabit, unflinchingly, the "invented and inflicted holes" of a consciousness that is by turns grieving, ironic, self-lacerating, celebratory. Roberts' faith in the renovating powers of lyric tradition is as anxious as it is necessary. This book is gorgeous and true." -- Mark Levine