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The Uncertainty Principle: Poems by Roxanna Bennett

Source: Tightrope Books
Paperback, 126 pgs.
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The Uncertainty Principle: Poems by Roxanna Bennett is a debut collection of poems in which the observation of events can have an impact on its outcome on the human and atomic level.  It is broken down into five sections — The Dominant O, Come From Away, Symptoms of the Disorder, The November Revolution, and Diminishing Returns — and each section delves deeper into the murk to uncover the momentum or the setting of events in motion.  Was it the abuse in childhood that forced her to be bitter and angry or was it being stood up that made her demand more power over her own life?

From “The Bottle Genie” (pg. 26-8)

I’m the empty window panes in a scissored newspaper, finger
of air beneath the door. I’m the cold chisel killing the torch singer,

the alembic that distills you to vapour. I’m what analyzes your
labelled slides, you in my eyes, magnified. I’m your cellar door.

Observation is not the mere passing of time for these narrating personas; it is an art form and a curiosity seeking to be quenched, even in the darkness of human suffering. There is a deep need to get at the root of a person, a situation, a motivation, a hurt. Beyond those who are observing, there are those who self-reflect, looking at the choices made and the life they live but from the outside — detaching themselves from those lives. Like in “Uprising” (pg. 31), “Limits of middle age fence/her in, a dozen lives ride/on her decisions. Memories,//raw beauty of teenage selves, memories,/youth that saw thoughtless uprising,/” where the woman is a decision-maker for those around her — probably her children and husband — and she is looking back to a time when she was not bound by her constraints and was free to turn on a dime and do something new without fearing the consequences — at least not having to fear how the consequences would impact those who rely on her.

From “Diminishing Returns” (pg. 121)

“We have navigated our worth
by the map of skin worn by another.”

“Hours dark wing-beats over the contours of her face.
We are the sum of all our choices, the origin of grace.”

Bennett also has a great series of poems in different sections of the collection that rely on echo, in which lines or phrases from one poem appear at the start of the next. These also ratchet up the tension in this collection, as readers are taken on a journey through rough waters and the unpredictability of the churning sea keeps them guessing. The Uncertainty Principle: Poems by Roxanna Bennett is a wounded animal howling in the dark, trying to make sense of the harm that has come and laid its insides bear for the alley cats to sneer and pick at, but it also is an examination of those trials and how they can define us or not, depending on the choices we make.

About the Poet:

Roxanna Bennett studied experimental arts at the Ontario College of Art and Design and creative writing at the University of Toronto. She lives in Whitby, Ontario.