Boston Review

In Notes on the Cinematograph, director Robert Bresson writes, “One cannot be at the same time all eye and all ear.” Alli Warren’s keenly attentive new collection proves him wrong at every turn. Warren effortlessly blends the analytic mind and the swarming sensorium of the body into a fleshy web of connectivity: “as an ear’s for / tonguing the open out / an ear’s for breathing / engine of thought.” These poems invite the reader into an uncanny immersion within the quotidian—akin to tasting the sharpness of sky color or watching song penetrate office walls. Taken together, their power rests not in the visionary aim of Rimbaud’s “derangement of the senses,” but in the willful blurring of the material limits of language—a rich verbal synesthesia that suggests a collective politics of bodies: muscle, blood and bone. “If I give skin syntax,” Warren writes, “or touch a swallow as it lifts / that a finger might slip.” There is an immediacy here that rides atop this collection’s deftness and depth, its slippery gallows humor (“There is no spring break for debt”) and pathos at deadening routine. This immediacy suggests an urgent present moment that requires holistic attending. Warren’s lean discursive lines wander restlessly, fully awake, curving each poem away from any foregone conclusion: “Tide, bring some / little green thing to dust / behind my eyes.” And if, as Bresson suggests, multiple senses cannot equally rule within the individual, then these poems urge us to merge—friends, lovers, the world itself—into one common body, which, by continuing to feel, multiply resists death: “Share a lung / Accumulate none / Say hello to the crow.”