Green Hills Literary Lantern

 Lee Slonimsky, Logician of the Wind

(Orchises Press, Alexandria, Virginia, 64 pages)

Lee Slonimsky’s latest collection of poetry, Logician of the Wind, offers a close, detailed look at the interconnectedness of the world, in the present and throughout history. The book begins with a tour through evolution, through the split between plants and animals, but quickly reveals itself to be more than just a scientific account. Slonimsky’s poetry provides the stories of all of his subjects, often from their own perspective— indeed, if we can tell our story, why can’t an atom tell its own? Through close observation, creative perspective, and an ardor for the beauty of the mathematics of the world, Logician of the Wind depicts an intensely active, ever-changing world that is “less stable than wind.”

Geometry is one of the most pervasive themes in the collection. Slonimsky’s narrators all have an eye for the beauty and symmetry involved in real-world mathematics, manifested as a bee’s flight, trees’ sway, or the syncopation of bird calls. What’s more, these geometric observations depict the relationships between our surroundings, as well as ourselves. Slonmisky’s reflections on the mathematics of the world are thus far from cold or pedantic, as such topics are sometimes interpreted. Instead, his poems breathe life into the mathematics of the world by exploring them with passion and insightful perspectives.

One of the most intriguing ways Slonimsky accomplishes this is through the character of Pythagoras, often referred to familiarly as “P.” In the early poem “Colleagues,” Pythagoras and an ant are presented as peers-in-mathematics:

Methodical, this ant’s approach to light

explored beneath a moss-kissed shard of log —

he traces a bright trapezoid of bog

rays color yellow — lover of all lines,

the way shadow and gleam divide meek sight

into blur and pure shape. Antcrawl defines

This relationship is driven by their intrinsic nature, and it is a similarity met with excitement and emotion on Pythagoras’ part, rather than objective documentation. Pythagoras dramatically offers his abacus, his tool for relating to the world, to the ant in an attempt to communicate through this newfound commonality. By focusing on the logician rather than the logic, Slonimsky’s writing creates an emotional intensity that renders otherwise complex and abstract topics such as DNA and transubstantiation, relatable, fresh, and human.

Pythagoras’ journey and observations help create an arc and narrative that runs throughout the book’s poems. Slonimsky’s inclusion of a series of poems that are “Many Lives Later” also helps to draw the text together as a whole, as well as to concretize and vivify the relationships between everything discussed in the poems. The take is rather yogic by nature, and it follows the haikuist Matsuo Basho’s advice to remove “the space between oneself and the object” strikingly well. By noting the sameness at the atomic level, Slonimsky allows the same voice to speak from a range of different perspectives, ultimately reminding us that every perspective, even those things we often view as inert or insignificant, has a story to voice. In “Many Lives Later: Rain, Birds,” Slonimsky notes the difference between knowing a thing and living it, writing of birds’ migration:

That’s scholarship beyond the wind,

or libraries, or human genomes,

and yet birds can be sliced for lunch

as surely as a cold wind blows.

Slonimsky’s use of poetic form proves an effective and tangible enaction of the relationships and interconnectedness that his poems explore. The sonnet provides a familiar structure that embodies the similarities Slonimsky writes about, but his precise and diverse application of his sonnets prevents them from blurring together. Instead, each grows into a distinct and vivid final project with an underlying DNA-like structural similarity. Other forms, as in the prose poem “Many Lives Later: Triangulation,” serve to punctuate the reading with anecdotes from everyday life that bring the more complex ruminations further into the author’s and readers’ own worlds.

Logician of the Wind offers a wide scope of the world made tangible and invigorating through its treatment of the very fine, very diverse microcosms populating it. Slonimsky writes with the mind of a scientist and the empathy and emotion of a poet to conjoin the two, instilling his work with the life and excitement he sees in the world around him.

  

 

Shawn Bodden is a recent graduate of Truman State University where he studied English, Linguistics and Russian. He is from St. Louis, Missouri and is participating in the 2013 Fulbright Program to teach English in the Republic of Georgia. This is his fourth review for GHLL.