Teare is no stranger to the tools of contemporary poetry. His syntax is an amalgamation of fragments, utilizing sleek enjambments and chiasmas to create a type of seamless movement which illuminates ideas without sounding either hip or postmodern. Take for instance, this section from “Emerson Susquehanna”, the opening poem in the collection which takes subtitles from portions of Emerson’s journals:
from thaw, we walk—o trees, trouble,
tremble at the roots of being, underneath,
under laws, the order of things
so deeply a violence and unnumbered like the snow.
There is a sequential legato, even in his use of punctuation and gaps, which signals the sensual pleasure he derives from manipulating language. In “Lent Prayer” he goes further to suggest a type of organic metonymy between language and nature. Nature is language, and vice versa: “rain all spondaic and unrelenting. Pallid nouns look familiar but they’re dead.” and “fog erasing syntax that holds nouns in the sentence called landscape, looks like: streetlight tree…” Material objects become second to nature and nature becomes artifact just as words are artifact, lasting mementos of a moment or a history that lives on the page after the moment is passed.
Of interest is Teare’s use of the word precarious in “Lent Prayer” which begins:
The way prayer is root to precarious : two crows creep
This juxtapositioning of images, “root” and crows creeping up the steeple, suggest a dichotomy which makes itself manifest in many of Teare’s poems: the always present polarity between objects and emotions, nature and language and material things. “Lent Prayer” is filled with these contrarieties: “The way soul has no certain etymology, how weirdly what’s rootless goes wrong-like…”
It is in these contrarieties that the precariousness of the poems make themselves felt, an ever-shifting balance between knowledge and vulnerability. Teare’s use of colons in this poem further emphasizes the separation of clauses and ideas, and between the objects he compares.
in the mind like fish flick water open, switchblade-
quick : weathervane
horse-cart milk-pail police-tape
farmhouse snowplow : if
I put them back, I’ll hate the tableaus
they make : cows
The landscape of the body figures largely in the last section (37:48:9 N, 122:15:4 W). The poem “Sanctuary, Its Root Sanctus” begins with the lines “I loved him, but not without ambivalence when he pushed inside me…” This revelation is followed by a onomatopoeic description of the lake: “The lake water ends with an i in it, slip lisping to lip and, stalled, it sticks.” The body and lake appear and reappear, the images and sentences repeating in a type of bizarre time loop which would be aggravating in the hands of a lesser poet. Teare deviates the margins and length of line to such an extent that on the page, the poem itself looks like a foreign territory. The replaying of the narrator’s walking around the lake and simultaneously circumnavigating the geography of his memories strikingly demonstrates the obsessive and highly visceral quality of physical love.
I think of Teare’s poems as constellations of sorts, bright points which shine separate from each other, the reader drawing lines to connect one to the other. Even the title Sight Map suggests a diagrammatic representation of area, the eye distinguishing the physical features, whether it be on land or sea or the body. Furthermore, the titles of the book sections are longitude/latitude coordinates (i.e. 42:53:6 N, 71:57:17 W) except for the section “Pilgrim” which features Teare’s version of prose poems. It is in these short works that a pull toward abstraction occurs. Always teetering on the edge of composure, the assonance of the lines shines through his fragmented sentences, the interstices between images confronting the reader to create her own map of sorts, suggesting an openness and an urgency towards a further knowledge that Teare insinuates but never fully imparts. This is where the precarious enters in these poem, and therein resides this collection's startling intricacy. ~JMB