|The Insomniac’s Weather Report
Poems by Jessica Goodfellow
|Isobar Press, 2014
Reviewed by Alison Taverna
Jessica Goodfellow’s book The Insomniac’s Weather Report tumbles into a world of water, semi-consciousness, and circular logic. The collection is divided into four sections and these divisions seem to offer the only real stability in the work. To hold onto anything here is illogical, for anything is nothing, and then everything, all at once. I read as if tiptoeing; I don’t trust that the poem will state without taking back, without it, somehow, claiming it’s not a poem, not not a poem, either. And when the narration does spin, I follow it without question, as if obviously, it’s foolish to think anything is definite.
The first section, “Uses of Water,” lays the foundation for the circular narration that carries throughout the collection. Water moves each poem, as it’s positioned as the central image. This works well as a beginning, for water is the source of all things living. It’s necessary for existence, yet it’s constantly shifting form and location. This shifting property of water extends to a larger discussion on instability. The poems are titled “What You Measure If You Use Water As A Clock” or “What You Lose If You Use Water As A Preservative.” Water is never simply water, but a tool. In “What You Dampen If You Use Water As A Boomerang,” the speaker talks of the body as fact, then shifts in the fourth stanza, she writes,
is not a boomerang, returning
unchanged—who boldly inked this
edge of continent on map? As if
blue roofs of ocean
shift and slap in maneuvers—
familiar and chaotic—the body
and its households recognize.
The speaker rejects water as stagnant and firm. Yet, the word “water” can be replaced with the word “body,” so the title reads “What You Dampen If You Use Body As A Boomerang.” Again, water seems to be a tool, simply a means towards what’s spoken about.
The other sections continue to focus on the theme of instability. Section two introduces an insomniac who
…longs to transliterate
rain into a human alphabet—
French, maybe. A lullaby, a chanson,
a hymn. A baptism of sleep
as unstable as water.
Section three, titled “Flotsam and Jetsam,” rinses tension on the poems’ shores. The speaker sounds the most disillusioned, circular, questioning. The poems match this in both form and content; they refrain multiple lines or build on a singular statement. For example, in “The Geometry of Being,” the first stanza begins with 3.1, then the second 3.14, then the third 3.141 until the poem ends with 27 lines of pi blocked against the page. Here, the speaker is called irrational, which becomes the link between the mathematical and the human condition. The poem draws its logic and language from both worlds:
they never reach an end, never reveal any patterns, never repeat.
I think of the ancient Greeks, how their words for irrational
meant measureless number.
When you call me irrational, I hear that I am measureless…
Still, the poem ends with a moment of uncertainty, a desire towards a definitive: “Tell me, is it hopeful or hopeless, / this confluence of spirit and flesh.”
The final section, “Alphabet Fugue” is the longest of the four. The poems build on one another, the end title word beginning the following title. In “Roof: Fugue:” Goodfellow defines “fugue,” as the act of fleeing, a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated, a disturbed state of consciousness, a “loss of memory coupled with disappearance from one’s usual environments,” among others. While these definitions mark the section, they also represent the collection as a whole. Our world, our bodies, these poems, are fugues. Goodfellow puts it best when she writes,
Here we are then: in a world where logic doesn’t function,
or else emotions can’t be trusted. Maybe both.
All known tools of navigation require an origin.
Otherwise, there is only endless relativity and then
what’s the point of navigation, in a space where
it’s hard to be lost, and even harder not to be?