The Voice Is Ready to Sing.

Author:Hammer, Langdon

"The poem must resist the intelligence," Wallace Stevens wrote, but then he added: "Almost successfully." Stevens isn't saying that poems must be unintelligible, but that a poem must not give in too quickly to our need to make sense of it. Rather, it must provoke, teasing the mind into action, into fresh experience.

Angie Estes--the author of four books of poetry, most recently Tryst, a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-would agree. Her poems revel in linguistic play, where the sound of words generates an associative logic that resists our intelligence, or at least our accustomed ways of making sense. Estes breaks language apart to see how it might be reconfigured. She pursues not sound over sense, but the sense sound itself makes, a tune that we can pick up--or better, that can pick us up and transport us--without our needing to know at all times what the words are saying.

"Nigh Clime" is about that musical transport. "Nigh," meaning what is near, comes from Old English. It suggests the diction of the King James Bible or Shakespeare and conveys a formal tone that coexists with intimacy. "Clime" is also archaic in feel, meaning a climate or surround, some specific environment. So the title points to a place that is nearby and familiar but also old, lit with "the glim / of ago." Because we can hear "climb" in "clime," the place Estes invites us to is high. She calls it "the lingo / hill": a plane or latitude we climb to when we play with words just as kids do when toying with the building blocks of language, risking non-sense. But listen for the sense Estes is making. "The hem / of home," for instance, is not just a cleverly alliterative phrase...

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