Estill Pollock's latest poetry collection, Ark, is now available from Broadstone Books. The book can be purchased online through major outlets and at a discounted price direct from the publisher's website.
The collection is available in the UK through Blackwell's (Oxford) online catalogue.
We are pleased to include here a recent review of the collection by author Timothy Dodd.
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[NB. Ark will be available in the UK through Blackwell’s (Oxford) online catalogue.]
Wasting little time to follow up last year’s Time Signatures, Estill Pollock’s new collection pulsates with urgency and echoing haunt. While maintaining the lyricism, gait, and rhythm of its predecessor, Ark moves from a focus on history and nostalgia to something that feels much more immediate, more pressing, and is in some holistic way an addressing of the Now. In places such as Part Two’s Waves, “London in Those Times,” an exquisite ten-page poem looking closely at life in the 19th century metropolis, Ark is every bit as historical as Time Signatures. “Battersea Reach from Whistler’s House” would also fit quite snugly in the previous collection; poems circling around Kabul or Texas cheerleaders, however, not so much.
Yet make no mistake, Pollock’s conversation with the present is not shortsighted syrup or a modern glaze to mirror the lifestyles, ideology, and aesthetics of the so-called contemporary age. Pollock’s world view is not tethered to a narrow-minded preference for our own epoch and location, and in fact laments that we seem to wallow in them and fail to reach for any greater understanding. As such,wired by lexiconic virtuosity, these poems move far from the backyard boardwalk into all directions of space and time (historical, prehistorical, a-historical and mythical) while carrying our own short moment of human experience through it all.
Indeed, the overall thrust of Ark comes from an interwoven examination of where humanity currently sits (or stands) in our journey upon earth. Along the way, and particularly evident in poems such as Part Two’s “How We Heard the News,” the veteran poet ponders how much more our age can consume, asking how and when we will come to terms with our vast post-industrial sowing. Take the ending to “Iron Gutter Eves,” for example, the fourth poem in Part One (Weather):
Now empire, heavy water tars, Dhaka
Denim mill race, death cycle rivers, fish ghosts
Sprig nets acid orange, pall indigo testament
Download, old altars
Yet this snippet reveals much more: that readers must ultimately come up with their own questions and conclusions, for Pollock’s poetry is nothing if not images and snapshots of the moment, foregoing ideology and the scourge of sermon. Still, there is no absence of urgent voice-bubbling within the imagery, and one need not trample halfway through the collection to find it.
It must be stated that it takes but a short flip-through of the book to note that Ark’s major, generalized theme is “weather.” Global warming and the catastrophic changes due to it have thrusted the modern, industrial world’s concern with climate far beyond those inconveniences countered by sunglasses and umbrellas. Yet Pollock is a poet, and a visionary one, not a TV weather forecaster. His lens is not narrow and when a thundercloud appears over the front lawn, one can be sure this means more than an afternoon of gardening ruined. This is to say that any close reading of Ark will reveal that weather and climate are much more a vehicle than simplistic theme, a topic of transport that takes Pollock’s poetry wherever it wants to go. “Snow Snagged in Hedges,” for example, is a poem that ultimately delivers us toward quietude, a poem that feels as if we’ve just turned off the lights to eternal sleep. And then after “long cold” and “dry winds,” in the poem “In Places We Invent,” a haunting little poem echoing humanity’s ultimate ineptitude, carries us to a place birthed by a line like this one:
Outside, a dead lung, a thousand years from Earth
Numerous other poems of the collection, poems like “Under the Sahara” and “Neanderthals in Paris,” forge trips via the weather toward those greater contemporary ironies, indeed hypocrisies, mentioned above. In Ark, Pollock reaches into all manifestations of climate, evoking and calling out aspects of the weather that signify the greater elements and earth itself, moving us toward the primordial as well. Landforms, natural disasters, geography—we are transported by words toward an understanding whose magnitude very quickly wraps us up in transformation, from the simplest concepts of weather into all things life, existence, and the interrelated human experience.
Ark begins to feel even more personal in Part Three (Sanctuary), digging into our choices, behaviors, tendencies and experiences as human beings, our own gales and tremors, our own droughts and soakings that are not separate from the natural world even when we attempt to keep them distant. Much of it is seen in the poem, “A Song.”
The winking jet exhaust, so high
And far, attracts ground-to-air response
Like whale song sounding in the deep, and still
Artillery cudgels orphans in their cellars—the ceasefire
Ragged as the curtains
On railway platforms we say goodbye
To little lives, to little preferences
For park-bench chess and Sunday roasts, with
Everyone aboard and visas stamped
As we return to shell holes named for cities
The gristle of burnt terrain
Is ours, patriot frenzy or cool resolve, both
With their place, where unclean spirits
Stew in native fire, met each to each
With songs of blood and heaven out of reach
More importantly in my view, in its illumination of all things related to weather, Ark ties everything that is ‘us’ to that which not only preceded, but that which comes after humanity. Lines from “A Thundersheet” read:
Deeper than the first grave, time sleeps
There is neither rain, nor the memory of it
This meeting with the primordial is alive in “Spirit Animals” as well, whose final stanza exhales:
The world is frail, each breath the last
Until we wake in older light, in the counterfeit of days our
Lasting memory, fire—the fall from grace
That ends as it began, our shadows flickering
Across cavern walls
As such, Ark is a whirlwind, a blasting volcano, a far-reaching tsunami, and cumulatively haunting. It is at once focused and all-encompassing, outward-looking in the extreme while simultaneously introspective. Suffice to say, it is a mature collection from a poet whose world view is as immense as his poetic talents. Estill Pollock’s Ark, as with his greater body of work, should not go unnoticed.
—Review by Timothy Dodd, author of Modern Ancient and Fissures and Other Stories, first published in The High Window