What We Are Reading: Salt, Hand, and Myth

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The edges of desks, the ledges of shelves, and the corners of nightstands play host to our book selections. We have a lot of them. Most surfaces of the workspaces at Limping Devil Press have some form of reading material or another resting on them.

The library has played many roles in our lives. It continues to transform and evolve into something new for us. Lately though, it has been the friend that cannot look us in our soulful eyes and refuse just one more transaction at the circulation desk; the seams of our book bags are being tested.

In short, it has been a little difficult trying to select one single, solitary volume of work for this week’s installment of “What We Are Reading”. We did manage. A young, talented, accomplished, and dare we say it, living poet has been on our minds lately. This week, we bring you Amaranth Borsuk and her book Handiwork.

“Between Page and Screen” is what poet and scholar Amaranth Borsuk dazzles audiences with. Indeed, the spectacle of “Between Page and Screen” is clever, daring, and innovative. It caught our attention, but so did Borsuk’s other collection of poems “Handiwork”. It is her poems contained within this volume about the hand as a single, sometimes independent or severed entity, that operates without the body that has captured our imagination at Liming Devil Press.

PrintThere are only three poems about the hand, and yet the title is “Handiwork.”  Poems about the hand are also placed in the middle, found sandwiched between the pages. Odd place to find a hand, no? “Blind Contour” leads the trio of appendage themed pieces created under a unique writing constraint: Gematria.

“Handiwork” begins with Gematria – a Jewish system of assigning a numerical value to a word or phrase. In the introduction, Paul Hoover explains Gematria and its structural role in Borsuk’s collection. This traditional method provides the backbone, the framework for all of the poems within the volume to operate. In essence, this volume of poetry is ordered by a rather basic element, salt.

Borsuk elegantly tackles form, structure, and intent while leaving the reader with a sense of absence. The hand feels like a phantom limb after reading “Handiwork.” It has no owner and it is trying to figure out its role in time. Where was the hand in the age of myth, the 20th century, and the days of yesterday. The metaphor of the hand amuses, entertains, and delights us as it attempts to orient itself in a family’s mythology.

What metaphor might you use to tell your family’s history?

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