by Amber DiPietra and Denise Leto
Chicago: Kenning Editions, 2011.
Reviewed by Kristen Stone, poetry editor
Wikipedia defines waveform as “the shape and form of a signal such as a wave moving in a physical medium or an abstract representation. [Where the wave doesn’t allow direct visual representation] ‘waveform’ refers to the shape of a graph of the varying quantity against time or distance… By extension, the term ‘waveform’ also describes the shape of the graph of any varying quantity against time.”
Waveform is a conversation and a meditation. The speakers are two writers with disabilities; the materials the two women draw from in this collaborative language project include Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico (“oily green water, hold and shallow”), their own medical records, friends’ blogs and emails, waking up in pain: a catalog of efforts.
Throughout the book, images recur of gravity, surrender, effort, flow. The document marks the space between thinking and writing— knowing that the words, the labor of the body to form them, is precious: “a distillation of suspense in the line. will it be written?” (3). What energy does it take to think, to write: “reminded of how/my back and neck keep the time i spend writing— a/ grindy rhythm/that sort of counters the effort to lose myself in words.”
Waveform asks us to consider, too, the relationship between self-consciousness and the body, the connection between pain, effort, and writing: “I am just using words to touch places in my/body that have gone numb, quiet, crunched”
What is the relationship of the waveform to gravity?
How something or someone falls to the earth, falling through time. The effort it takes to rise, the relationship between effort and flow. Carrying the body to the ocean so that it can be buoyed in the salt water: salt the opposite of gravity: my grandmother trying to teach us to float in the ocean. If you hold your breath, you’ll float better. you have more air inside. Her soft breasts, scarred and tattooed from radiation, threatened to slide out of her one-piece like their own ocean animals. Us, little, furiously treading water, vertical while our horizontal grandmother rose and fell with the waves, her ten toenails painted coral, sticking up out of the gray water. We are quick and stiff: holding my breath makes my whole body tense; the fear of sinking and the effort to stay up, kicking my skinny legs: we pant like puppies. Once you give up the fear of sinking you can breathe slowly and you will float, dropping below the surface slightly with each exhale, rising again as you breathe in. Later, grown, I practice yoga, I swim in a pool, I dance and strut as a member of my local drag troupe: remembering these lessons in resistance and surrender, a more complicated relationship between effort and release. Surrender and the breath: the body doing its strange work: moving uncertainly through space.
The language of Waveform, I would warn, is not what people call ‘accessible,’ when they want to curl up on the couch, with a mug of tea or a glass of wine, to do the thing called ‘reading some poetry.’ The language is dreamy, hypnotic, best read aloud while trying to find the most comfortable position and not forgetting you have/are a body.
A beautiful, difficult book that mimics the experience of writing itself, Amber DiPietra and Denise Leto’s Waveform is available from SPD