Blot Lit Reviews: Tangled in Motion by Jane L. Carman
Tangled in Motion, Jane L. Carman
JEF Books, 2015
Reviewed by Elizabeth Mobley
Jane L. Carman has aptly named her poetry collection Tangled in Motion. The labyrinthine web of experimental, abstract poetry—with hardly a concrete image to latch onto—features three main characters: Hot Mama, Sweet (or Sugar) Daddy, and Baby C (or CC).
Themes in the text include mothers, fathers, daughters/babies, abuse, abandonment, (un)love(d), existentialism, and relative truth. The poems are laced together with many common threads, such as the storyline of Baby C and the meaning(ness) of love.
All of the poems employ some experimental element, which adds rich and enigmatic qualities to the text. “Baby Stories,” for example, has the word “CONFIDENTIAL” stamped across each page of the poem. The stanzas are numbered stories, and although there are two “Story 3”s, there is no “Story 13,” as the poem ends on “Story 12.” Interestingly enough, the number ‘13’ is absent from most of the book, as the poem “Preface:100% C”’s numbered stanzas skip ’13,’ going straight from ‘12’ to ’14.’ The 19th stanza is numbered, but then left blank.
Carman plays with meaning, form, and presentation in this mystifying collection, and hardly a page goes unturned without a new surprise. The author snarls the reader in a maze of words, pictures, and a profundity of contemporary poetry of cosmic proportions.
The poem, “Voices,” for example, contains three voices, separated for the reader with three different fonts/text styles: bold face print, regular print, and a backwards and forwards gray overlay, which intermingles with the other two voices, albeit in the background of the work.
At times, the overlays of text on top of text can be seen as a distraction, but more often than not, they literally and metaphorically add layers of flavor to the individual works. In example, in a three-page poem titled, “Sex Stories,” each page of the prose piece is overlain with an ‘X,’ which might akin the work to pornography. However, this piece is less about the “XXX” overlay and more a comment on society’s distortion of sex and the inescapable nature of rape. These pages refuse to be catalogued like the others, and the page numbers are left off of the right-hand corner of the pages.
Carman takes clichés and twists them into new statements, always breaking the reader’s expectations. In “For the Love of the Storyteller,” for example, she writes:
From the time she was first swaddled and swallowed by his
cracked hands, holding her against his chest, she was his,
a Daddy’s daughter, a love of(f) the old block, a growing
bundled of (in)justice, (com)passion, fight, and danger. (151)
And in “What O What Can We Be,” she says:
By trending in the might direction.
By moving north or beast.
By breaking in the correct coordinates. (155)
She sets up one expectation after another, so that we think we know what word or phrase will follow, and she presents us, instead, with something fresh and unexpected—a new way to see…to read…to watch the story unfolding before us.
The second to last poem in the collection, “Finale,” would logically feel like the last poem in the collection. However, she ends the book with a piece titled “Revision,” which is exactly what the collection is: a (re)vision of contemporary, postmodern poetry into something that never was before.
There is no conclusion. No final paragraph. Return to a story. Recount dance
steps. Quick, quick, slow. Click, click, bang.
Pick a consonant or vowel or constant sorrow.
You have tasted her breath and it feels like (173)
The collection ends as abruptly as it began, finding us no further to the truth than at the beginning of our journey through Carman’s exquisite revelry.
Many of the poems are difficult to discuss or to describe. Instead, anyone with a taste for the interesting and experimental should get Tangled in Motion. Although the poems in the collection are very different from traditional poetry and prose works, they are a refreshing and thought-inducing blend of enigmas about family and the pains of childhood (a never-ending state of uncontrollable emotion). Jane L. Carman captures something about the human spirit in this full collection of poetry: self-reflection.