Jen Bervin

The Desert

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Each quietly monumental book has been machine-sewn “readily as glaciers,” with over five thousand yards of pale blue thread, through chapters of John Van Dyke’s The Desert, to yield beautifully strange new poems.

The book is experienced both as a palimpsest of poems in which a reader must seek out the words, which often hide, and, when one turns the page, as a kind of elemental landscape or drawing where the acts of poem-making leave their thready record.

Evoking her earlier work with the sonnets of William Shakespeare, from which she culled her own minimal Nets, Bervin here uses atmospheric fields of pale blue zigzag stitching to construct a poem “narrated by the air.”

Ultimately, Bervin’s poem is a reality that is sought, as many have wandered in deserts, in more abstracted landscapes—in the sharp physical, textual relief of sewing on Van Dyke’s page, and in deeper inward contemplation. Thinking of the artist James Turrell, for whom the poem was first composed for a reading at Roden Crater, she writes: “The great get on with the least possible and suggest everything by light.”

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