In Review

Land Sparing by Gabriella Klein. Nightboat Books, 2015.

cover of Land Sparing

Reviewed April 1, 2017 by Karen An-hwei Lee.

“To live rejoicing and true-footed. / A common prayer.” So begins a radiant debut, Land Sparing, Gabriella Klein’s sensual, intelligently felt lyric which turns our attention to a shining eco-poetical awareness, rooted in the beauty of the profoundly earth-bound yet anthropocentric. Exploring the mediated experiences of a hybridized natural world, Klein layers a lexical elegance of the empirical (“allometry and isometry”) with waves of passion coloring the intricacies of our relationships, at once ironically personal and playfully self-referential.

from “Bracket”

A tree lying down

becomes a sentence.

Orthography won’t save us.

Delete, delete.

Klein’s lyric meditations on abstract or tangible structures, whether engineered or organic, immerses a vigilant reader in the open mindfulness of intimacy and delightful estrangement with distant echoes of Emily Dickinson’s ecstatic pulse and the fine handiwork of Jen Bervin’s exquisitely stitched texts.

from “The Honeycomb Conjecture”

If a bee is busy, too busy

to feel woe. Or the absence

of pollen, which is to say, lonely.

I would lie with you

in the open road.

. . .

Inside us

lives a colony of space.

While the poems, collectively, harmonize melodious strains of eco-poetical grief and gratitude, Klein’s precise eye and ear for imagery and musical line is occasionally punctuated, distinctively and effectively, by a wry sense of humor.

from “You Are a Bird of Paradise"

Technology is ruining my handwriting

but not my sense of smell. Night-blooming,

we arrive to the slowing in the southbound lane.

Land Sparing is never darkly cynical nor dystopic. Rather, a quiet promise of rejuvenation hums patiently, if not prayerfully, resonating in its clear-eyed couplets, single lines, and stanzas: so much is spoken-into-being with an economy of words.

from “Draft Conclusions”

We will reforest

the forests

with medicine and moths

with see through wings.

A lovely book-object with soft–cover flaps and grayscale collages of delicate hand-torn paper, Land Sparing includes, at interludes, visual textures in a sequence of forays into a de-textualized or re–textualized world, populated by a renewed human respect for the earth and the imagined potential of a paradise existing within — or beyond — the exhausted tumult of our “technophile” millennium.

from “Seven Lakes”

Elegance, succulence. The world

best left alone.

* * *

Gabriella Klein earned her undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University and her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poems have appeared in Conduit, Jubilat, A Handsome Journal, FIELD, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Santa Barbara Poetry Conference. With her husband and daughter, she resides on California’s Central Coast.

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci Press 2014). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations, was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of an NEA Grant, she serves as Professor of English and Chair at a liberal arts college in greater Los Angeles. Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle.