A Review of Eye of the Spiral by James Grabill (UnCollected Press, 2022)
James Grabill’s Eye of The Spiral is clearly part of the “Eco-poetics” movement. What makes it unique can be seen in its title and the spiral (created by Grabill) on the front cover, i.e. the rich ambiguity of how its poems reach out to the environment and simultaneously reach inward to embody the neuro-linguistic pathways of human awareness. Each poem in the book enacts astonishing insights into the limitless interactions between human beings and their environments and at the same time provides perceptual paradigms needed for survival as well as acts of joyful liberation in the discovery of knowledge.
Perhaps what Grabill is doing in this book, i.e. creating a biological surrealism, can be illustrated by focusing on “In the Glow of the River.” It begins in a speculative mood: “Maybe we’ve seen ourselves overhead/in the night sky streaking unexpectedly.” That is a trigger image that initiates an unfurling and cumulative expansion of the speaker’s felt-thought. The opening of the poem is like the subject or noun of a sentence; the rest of the poem shifts from nominative to its opening predicate, “meteor showers over the insect prairies” to “the plotted Mandelbrot number series” which when seen as an animated sequence becomes “the opening eye of a spiral” like the human mind which is also like the pupil of the human eye which has evolved to allow varying amounts of light to enter. The subtext of this poem is an enactment of a theory that asteroids and comets may have seeded the earth with the chemical elements that undergird the creation of life, yet all this exists in a meditative moment in which the “glow of the river” is the reflective surface (the human mind) upon which this entire drama unfolds.
The rhythms of Eye of The Spiral are often that of dithyrambic goat-songs which propel the lines with a wonderful energy that wave-like pass through oceans of images that actively present the processes that create the foundations of life and the provenance of sustainability which arises out of loving our planet as we love ourselves. In effect, this book becomes the Gospel of Nature.
Eye of The Spiral by James Grabill
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