Adrienne Gruber’s craftily controlled buoyancy

9781771662222Adrienne Gruber. Buoyancy Control. (BookThug 2016).

That cover illustration, the octopus arms writhing, is more than a little suggestive of the fluid shifting about of concepts, motifs & motives inside this provocative assemblage. The concept of body (leading to mind) transformation is central to the poems (& poetics) of Buoyancy Control. As the speaker in ‘Mimic’ says in ‘The Freak Show,’ ‘I regenerate lost limbs.’ And these poems keep telling us of how many losses we can sustain & recover from. But she adds, ‘I’ve got resources. / I’m just saying.’ And she keeps ‘saying’ things metaphorically (although the extended simile—‘tears that flow like glacial melt, where, as kids, / we’d place our warm sodas to cool’—also gets a workout), shifting the ground, or rather the lake or ocean, under the reader in almost every line.

So the world is fluid in Buoyancy Control, definitely including sexual identity & the pulls & pushes a fluctuating sense of self invokes; the borders will not stay in place: ‘Insomnia tonight, rebellion tomorrow. / Pulling teeth. And still, they insist, / the heart is the measure of success.’ Gruber sees the world, perhaps, through water, the light refracted, & thus her descriptions, so to speak, get at things at an angle: ‘Dirty pond browning in the sink. / The sinkhole in the dark // is his cleft of hip. / Count ribs with a drift of index finger’ (& I love the spark of that ‘drift’ in that line).

Gruber gets the comedy of errors that desire portends, & she writes with wit & humour, even when, perhaps most when, attempting to catch the conflict embedded in love & desire, ‘How furious you are’ one moment, ‘Your face like a clown, laughter / between my legs’ the next. The ‘Intertidal Zones’ sequence, a series of prose poems about why to choose certain sea creatures as lovers, or not, demonstrates just how successfully she controls the buoyancy of both language & love/lust. Like so much of this intriguing volume, it unsettles while drawing us in.

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