A Copyist, an Astronomer, and a Calendar Expert
Chapbook, Sarah Mangold, 16 pgs, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.com, $4
There’s a substantial amount of feeling in this collection, in a literal sense. “Let us consider the prime difference in feeling,” it begins. Later: “Let us dissect our feelings… Every kind of feeling and affection.”
The sentiment only partially originates with Sarah Mangold. Much of the text in these poems is “borrowed, erased and glossed” from two books: A Theory of Cloud: Toward a History of Painting (Hubert Damisch), and Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting (John F. Carlson), which itself dives into the accurate reproduction of clouds. It appears these authors felt deeply about weather patterns.
As one would expect, given the source material, this is highly descriptive poetry. While it isn’t strictly cloud-centric, its curt phrases and short stanzas imbue it with a lighter-than- air quality. Spend enough time looking at the text and you might begin to see each poem taking the shape of a cloud.
The primary challenge in crafting this kind of some-assembly-required verse is finding a way to instill meaning in the text that wasn’t intended in the original manuscripts, and Mangold achieves this more often than not. The most animated verses in A Copyist, an Astronomer, and a Calendar Expert are the ones that wander from the original topics — clouds, weather and landscapes — and push the source text in unexpected directions. (Scott Bryson)