Something in a number of the verses collected in Sonia Bascos Jethani’s Revelations For Genesis sounds a bit like Emily Dickinson: a light, dry touch, a (self) mocking humor that can, and does, turn quietly and intensely serious.
We see this most clearly in a short poem such as “Anarchy,” which reads: “The trees have this untidy habit of dropping leaves on the ground / It’s there [sic)]vengeful way of saying that certain things must not be found / And the world keeps on turning pretending it doesn’t see / For stopping to protest would elicit a costly fee.”
Dickinson, too, often began poems with an oddly slanted but closely observed moment in the natural world that provokes a sudden, much deeper glimpse into the human world. In this case, the author suggests that we hurry through our lives pretending not to see things we know are there. There is also an ironic implication that the poet has stopped and looked – and is paying the cost.
Jethani’s modest, even reserved, line and tone can carry weight that readers feel gradually gathering in the progression of the poem, as in “Just To Let You Know,” where the quiet, neutral, conversational cliches, “Just to let you know…,” “This is to let you know…,” and ‘” see you…” are wound tighter and tighter until we reach, “Just to let you know, you don’t have to do anything / I could not fall deeper for you–this is everything.”
Jethani, however, is not always in control of her style, and when that occurs, poems can turn clumsy and awkward, or, worse, bathetic, as in ”Listen”: “I am a hapless victim of lost virtue… I scream trapped in hell’s masquerade.”
Overall, Jethani is on the right track here. At their best, her poems are clear, concise and carefully controlled without seeming constricted. The poems work less well when emotions, and not the poet, seem to be in control.