Hemmed Along in Poetry for Discursive Poetry is an eclectic, free-verse poetry collection by Mary Lee Jordano exploring a wide range of topics, from cats and coronavirus to meditations on aging, desire, and the nature of poetry itself.
The poems vary significantly in length and there’s also marked variation in diction, tone, and style. Many contain memorable and luminous details, such as the unexpected phrasing and imagery of “Spider event of a shower curtain,” the surprising metaphor “in a jukebox tomb,” and the exciting narrative glimpse offered with “not broken about in Cairo/ on a motorcycle.” In these examples, readers find portals of connection with the speaker and can picture the world she describes.
The work also has some flaws, however. Oddly, the back-cover blurb describes this as “a collection of original abstract poetry.” Abstraction is typically something to be avoided in this image- and aural-centered genre. Many of Jordano’s poems are indeed abstract, cryptic, cerebral and hard to parse. For instance: “A cure arise [sic] without experience./ A nuclear core supreme for reason and not/ without extreme feeling for ourselves” and “Placating ethos in/ effort/ of lengthening.” Without details that engage their senses, readers are likely to be confused and alienated from the speaker’s intentions and emotions.
While Jordano’s poems vary in how successfully they stand alone, they fail to work together as a sequence that gains meaning by accretion, recursion, or any other recognizable method. Hemmed Along lacks a clear, organizing principle and thematic through-line to anchor these poems and illustrate their relationship to each other.
The persistence of typos throughout, including the misspelling of notable names like “Kerstin” Gillibrand, “Edger Allen” Poe, and Ann “Lauteerbach” also undercuts the professionalism and readability of the book.
While Jordano demonstrates the capacity for crafting image- and aural-centered lines on multiple occasions, more consistency in that capacity as well as in content and style is needed for this collection to become a satisfying and fully integrated volume.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.