Shira Dentz
the sun a blazing zero
Lavender Ink, 2019

This unique and experimental project treats the intersections of image and word, examining traditions of Ezra Pound’s poetry as a zone of maximum energy and André Breton’s poetics of the “explosante-fixe” through a feminist lens. The poet seeks to sustain a dynamic between deliberate and chance writing, providing a formal parallel to the tension between themes of elegy—through pauses, reverses, and halts—and dynamism—through a syntactic forward motion and flux. She exploits the aural, visual, and semantic dimensions of language in order to track the vibrations of a receding world that has not yet entirely vanished. Those worlds, receding from view but still barely visible, include climate change, animal preservation, effects of war, and a woman’s vantage point on the cusp of aging.

There is something noncommittal or unstable about a collection that doesn’t dwell too long in one type of form or narrative; indeed, its very “nature” is unsustained. Mina Loy wrote that poets “present the map of their individuality without the secondary reconstruction of the pictorial coherence of our customary vision.” Every time we recognize someone’s work “it is by the singularity of this map of their aesthetic system.” the sun a blazing zero is more a map of experiences than a smooth geometric form. Many of the individual poems, products of free writing, disrupted through erasures and re-sequencing, discover juxtapositions of referential meanings, letter sounds and shapes, and syntactical ruptures that can serve as material in an assemblage of meaning—or affect. New words are created from the phonemes and vocables of surrounding language. The source material is recycled and “degraded,” “an abstraction of language” that moves towards an invented way to intensify a lyric field, to find something fresh, to articulate—usually female—experiences that lack a vocabulary, and/or to experience language anew, and/or to ride with—not rebut—the noise of information-overload in our contemporary psyches. Typography, too, and the visual space of the page is treated as malleable and expressive elements in writing.

the sun a blazing zerois a collage of movement between the inner and outer, through which varied “shutter speeds,” or a stream of mental events, weave the personal with the sociopolitical. The portrait of the “I” constructed therein is aligned with Denise Levertov’s notion of the poetic “I” as an earthworm moving through the world by filling and emptying through it. Attention to the physical form of letters serves as a kind of mediation that has a correspondence in narrative to metafiction. By not ignoring the “body” of writing, the poems align with the poetics of Kathleen Fraser, Susan Howe, and Jenny Boully, among others, in which the silence of the page evokes the present yet absent female, and play as an instinctive response to conventions that led Laura Mulvey to assert that feminists’ ultimate challenge is “how to fight the unconscious structured like a language while still caught within the language of the patriarchy.”

Praise for Shira Dentz
and the sun a blazing zero

“Encompassing our past and present in a flirtatious and exuberant display of lyric immediacy, Dentz stretches our textural engagement with memory and history – feminism, the Holocaust, gardens and animals with texts that read like improvisatory jazz fugues. A pleasure to read and to look at.”

—Erica Baum

“Welcoming the / crackling from one snap of think,” Shira Dentz’s latest collection, the sun a blazing zero, leaps synaptically (and syntactically) from sensation to affect, from self to cosmos, and from heartbreak to wonder. Under a literary constellation composed of William Blake, Henry David Thoreau, Vito Acconci, and Susan Howe, this poet invites us to join her in “building a house open to the elements.” The views from this exposed literary shelter are simply breathtaking. You can watch “mountains / like flame, / only slower.” Those unaccustomed to the cold at such altitudes are invited to wrap themselves in “mourning, the heaviest fabric.” Dentz shows us how to dwell in worlds far from home.”

—Srikanth Chicu Reddy

If Emily Dickinson wants to “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” Shira Dentz wants “the lines to open. to be jagged, smeared, and tilted.”  That wish, expressed late in Dentz’s new book, does not substitute forthe deed, but describesthe deed performed by the poetry that precedes it. the sun a blazing zerois full of jagged, smeared, and tilted lines, of poems “open to the elements.”

—H. L. Hix

In these poems, we find “a glint like an eye’s: yolk yellow, crayon thick,” a sonic “hue do” where senses intertwine and words lead one into the next breathlessly opening and opening again. Dentz’s poems leave spaces agape, even in their sonic onrush, to allow for “a question mark, which is by its space to be slept wafting.” Her porous poetics blankets the small and uncertain self in rich language that makes us more comfortable with loss, death, cold, and the unknown—those “blazing zeroes” where uncertainty becomes palpable.

—Amaranth Borsuk

These fine-grained, loose-limbed poems stay lightly with the contact zone where senses meet day. The zone precipitates scenes and memories, hi-def images, half-words. Notation coalesces into sensate palmate structures, affective fractals, till moments wheel like murmurations. Blazing Zero is gestural, avid, and moving, multi-ways.

—Catherine Wagner