Trauma Head (Anvil Press, 2018)

Kin to Sylvia Legris’s amazing collection, Nerve Squall (2005), a long poem whose jagged animal-madnesses mimic the discordant symptoms of migraine, but taken, as required, to a deeper extreme, Elee Kraljii Gardner’s Trauma Head truly fuses form and content. At times inversions, backslashes, mirrored words, quirky typographies, blank spaces and even neologisms can seem but tricks in other texts, but in this book they are essential ruptures of the flow and lucidity of language, or re-makings, afresh or of necessity, from at least partial somatic devastation. Best read in one sitting to receive the full effect or impact of the passages from attack and diagnosis to gradual healing over the course of a year, this poem draws on clinical discourse, charts, technical utterances, spurts of Greek and the auralities of such poets as angela rawlings to reconstruct the mind’s senses under the wreckage of an arterial tear. The defamiliarizations of syntax and diction reflects the discombobulations of the body as it seeks to make sense of its alterations in access, routine, feeling.

There is no real need to yank out parts here to identify them as more or less potent or crafted because this agonized saga is one difficult channel with its constituent and required limbs of sludge and flooding. Though I must say I felt most moved by the “enter the disruption/” segments with their lengthy lines in prose-esque paragraphs, announcing such surreal/real instances as “petals of the many-sided tree and inside corners arise from tears,” was compelled by the numerical gauges at the bottom of pages that accord (for instance) a level of 3 to Body and a marker of 2 to Bed, and appreciated the dialogue that erupts between actual reports from Gardner’s file and her own poetic interpretations. The book closes with a brief but beautiful meditation-essay on the return to the world after injury and illness, a soothing, stirring gorgeousness of “the seal’s whiteless eyes” as the healed and yet now changed narrator tastes “the river, the salt, clouds, all the recipes of blood.”

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