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Book Review


Grapple: a study in Existential power paradigms.

Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: Grapple

Author: Carrie Olivia Adams

Publisher: above/ground press

Date of Publication: 2016

Pages: 16

"Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love."
- from Dance Me to the End of Love by Leonard Cohen

Grapple is fantastical experimental protest poetry that was originally created as a poetry-dance multidisciplinary work with the Coincidentals, Chicago based dancers and choreographers Lydia Feuerhelm and Jamie Corliss. Influenced by videos and photos of street protestors being arrested, including a photo of the arrest of a young African American man, Shayna Stacy, the tension of the poetry and the dance fuses in the push and pull of intimacy and aggression. “It examines how physicality in protest exists in seemingly contradictory ways: bodily weakness can be an act of strength and physical closeness can unify or it can assert power hierarchies.” Carrie Olivia Adams lives and works in Chicago. She is a publicist for the University of Chicago Press and the Poetry Editor at Black Ocean. She is the author of 3 books of poetry and 3 Chapbooks, this is her second Chapbook published with above/ground press and the first book of poetry reviewed by This Writer.

The poetry reads like the violence of conflicting power pardigms in open spaces, the push and pull of divergent wills, citizen against state, racist against innocent, and perhaps within the intimacy of personal/sexual relationships, lover against leaving lover, reflected in the poetry and dance. As if playing into the “theatre of the absurd” the existentialist paradigm, of the violence of one body/personality inflicting its will over another, the second party having a differing opinion, and the often paradoxical conflicts that inflict pain upon innocents. To be fully appreciated I suspect it would help to experience the dance as well as the poetry, I suspect the dance and the poetry plays off each other, not unlike the art and the poetry of William Blake. This work is a ground-breaking experiment of multidisciplinary dimensions.

The poetry itself rolls out across the page in blocks, creating tension and the violence in ended, unended conversations. Also, there is the original use of syntax. On one level, as if the re-enactment of a take down by police in a street protest, the intimacy of physical closeness in this power paradigm, perhaps the violence of the will of one lover over a lover who wants to leave. Images in the work, are an interplay of movements of the body and emotions, a psychological treatise on power at the primal corporeal level.

“Come back to the space
Where we were so close

Tell us again how you know
how you submerged us
how we re-wrote the movement of sidewalk and street
how it bent up to meet us
how our cries made a body an earthquake
What was that chain reaction?”

                                   At once too easy to cut,
                                   too difficult to break

:to put an end to a siege by withdrawing

                    : to steal”

In the design machine of power and paradox, it is interesting to note that when enough people think the same way, things change. An exciting study in poetry and dance, highlighting struggle in conflicting power paradigms, Grapple by Carrie Olivia Adams.

Available @ above/ground press.

The Book Reviewer

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