An Overture in the Key of F
Chapbook, Carrie Olivia Adams, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.com, $4
It’s amusing how blind we can be to the obvious. I was nearly all the way through this Carrie Olivia Adams collection (it’s best described as a lyric essay in parts) before I realized the significance of its title: every paragraph contains a word — often several — that starts with the letter F, and there isn’t a great deal of duplication.
The device Adams is employing here is a double-edged sword. The alliteration makes for a pleasurable read, but she quickly runs out of commonplace F words and resorts to atypical terms like “fungible” (having a dictionary handy while reading this is recommended). As a consequence of this factitious use of F words, An Overture in the Key of F tends to provide impressions more than concrete details. Many of Adams’ lines are lists of items that suggest something unmentioned, or that operate as intricate metaphors: “Payment, ransom, bunting, linnet, find… A finger wave, utterly and finally. The scandal of pine.” There’s also definitely an atmosphere of remembering and forgetting present — of trying to put your finger on something fleeting: “The pernicious sound of something familiar, a grief in the breath-filled fading consonant of a lost name.”
The air of mystery surrounding this text will be enticing for some — who doesn’t keep returning to a mystery, searching for answers? — but it runs the risk of alienating others. Whether you like or dislike An Overture in the Key of F will likely depend on how easily and quickly you give up. If there’s a detective in you, you’ll keep coming back. (Scott Bryson)