Between their production of quality chapbooks and verse/schematic/collage mixtures in their webzine, Ander Monson and staff at DIAGRAM/NMP continue to occupy a unique niche in contemporary poetry. Janice Greenwood’s “Tempest” is among the best of their offerings this issue, [11.6].

One can’t help but smile at the care involved in the standby image for [11.6], especially in terms of how “Tempest” opens: the arm-and-paw illustration speaks immediately to the disembodiment of ‘the hours making disparity of our arms and legs,’ an image that is thrust alongside ‘sea,’ ‘bell,’ and general ‘wreckage of self’: quite a crew of occupants. The title of the poem does work to both situate and unseat a reader, I think—I’m immediately back beneath the tossed deck of Mr. Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with boatswain, Antonio, and the rest of the company (check W.S.’s scenic direction: ‘On a ship at sea: a tempestuous noise [. . .]); as the piece continues to move, I’m aware there’s no discernibly concrete connection to that play, and can see the tempest as one of many ‘storms’ about a home (or even a Tempest keelboat).

But, let me say: the speaker’s mention of ‘bell’ in line 1 recalls such a darling memory from The Tempest (‘Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell:/Hark! now I hear them—Ding, dong bell’ [I, ii]) that I refuse to believe I’m marooned with this touchstone by our sailor unwittingly.

Though I can’t nail down its content completely, there’s something sexy about the scene as it unfolds. The way time ravels in ‘hours’ and the rich double reading of ‘minute’ in ‘[T]he illusion of the minute unrolling from the spindle//of its chrysalis[,]’ the tilting room, the zooming from hands to fingers, the curtain, the volatility of quicksilver, the kicked-over lamp that breaks ‘night elemental’—these things seem to be both—again—the content that wants shielding from the constellations and stars by the ‘webbing of hands[,]’ and also the things which the stars might not be able to stand had they view.

Ultimately, it’s no surprise that this impassioned narrative is driven to a connection with exteriority, if for no other reason than momentary respite: the ‘sail in the dark’ offers a beacon for which the speaker may or may not choose to reach. Even though Greenwood’s ‘a sail, a sail, a sail‘ recalls the peaceable repetitive close to Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” I’m not convinced speaker or parties are headed for cover.

For more reviews on poems and chapbooks published by DIAGRAM, check our archives [here] and [here].