D'Argo Agathon's Reviews > Earthquake Came to Harlem

Earthquake Came to Harlem by Jackie Sheeler
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Oct 04, 2011

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bookshelves: poetry

I’m conflicted with Sheeler. Some of her poems like “God Enters the World” and “Terminatrix” are tight, concrete, and visceral, and yet very craftily paint allusions and images that work 100% of the time. And then there are some poems like “The Wager” and the titular “Earthquake…” which abandon (or never quite found) that tightness and realness of imagery… and where frankly, I cannot for the life of me figure out what she is reaching for.

I hesitate to make this analogy because I am an amateur, unpublished poet, but this seeming disconnect reminds me a lot of my poetic work; sometimes, I craft (what I consider to be) a beautifully imaged poem, but no one seems to really “get it.” I also don’t really like to use the phrase “tries too hard,” because I don’t think that is possible, but the sentiment behind the phrase might be something to think about with her poetry.

I do love Sheeler’s ability to ground most of her images though, like Bloch does in *Blood Honey*. There is a grit to “Pickup Line” with the “features blank as Barbie’s,” and “his mayo / and his day-old beard.” This extends to how she grounds the images, and I think a lot of that can be attributed to her staying in relatively “safe” stanza formations. Again, I’m conflicted; this allows her to be more real and a better communicator, but it also shows she isn’t willing to try new things or push these realities into the more uncomfortable. And now that I think on it, perhaps trying a different structure would make the more abstract poems more comprehendible.

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