Zine Review: Otherwise Smooth


Chapbook, Rosmarie Waldrop, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.com, $4

The tone of a written work has likely never been set as quickly as it is in the first sentence of this collection: “How daily my life.” Otherwise Smooth, an assemblage of nine prose fragments, rarely strays from that initial promise of despondency. There are tangible losses — “a sister’s death, a friend’s,” and the resulting funerals— but Rosmarie Waldrop is  more interested in the passing of what could be called the now-component of time, or what she describes as “the immediate between the ticks of the watch.” Events and chances constantly evade her grasp; everything is instantly history: “A cosmic storm slips between my fingers… only once it’s past I latch on.”

Language and cognition are to blame for the loss of immediate perception, Waldrop suggests: “Only once we’ve said ‘I’ with all that follows do we become aware of pure experience… But then it’s already over… pronouns do not refer to anything in space and time except the utterance that contains them.” This clearly isn’t cheery material, but a nugget of hope does creep in to lighten the closing paragraph: “And yet. Already so many pear trees blossom.”

Otherwise Smooth reads as a complete cycle, with no loose ends, and Waldrop stays loyal to her theme throughout. It tends to wallow in heady territory, but always manages a tactful balance between poetic language and comprehensibility. (Scott Bryson)