The Green Ray
Corina Copp

Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015

Corina Copp’s first full-length collection, The Green Ray, opens with an epigraph quoting filmmaker Tacita Dean’s remarks on her film The Green Ray (Summer): “So looking for the green ray became about the act of / looking itself, about faith and belief in what you see.” Copp’s Green Ray also accounts for and enacts procedures of looking, where looking is propelled by “faith and belief,” yet circumnavigates each, offering instead a series of strange pairs. “Pairs are bad,” Copp writes in “Pro Magenta,” the book’s final poem, but, as she shows elsewhere, they are also inevitable, enacting a doubleness, a cleaving in both its senses (clinging, separating): “Sentences pass / Between friends / Near the water”and the exchange at once stands outside landscape (“near the water”) and becomes part of what moves within it.

In “Moderator Cantabile” (echoing Duras’ novel Moderato Cantabile, and like Jules Verne’s novel The Green Ray, also adapted for film), Copp writes:

…you know that car can
not heal its own puncture,
and have been flesh-
breaker and less since I
made sculp my trade redact…

Here, the car’s metonymic puncture suggests a parallel to the speaker’s fissure (“flesh-breaker), but resists fungibility; instead, the speaker’s “made sculp my trade redact” reduces her text to muscle and motion. Such language is almost parsable as another kind of disturbance of surface, but the four potential verbs in the final line (made / sculp / trade / redact) refuse a clear sense of agency and causality. Throughout the collection, comprehension (both visual and linguistic) is offered and then redacted. Her poems jockey between modes, crossing from the familiar (“you know that car”) into syntactic collapse.

Copp’s poems engage surfaces both fixed and shifting: fabrics, the surfaces of oceans and seas, the screen in cinema. She builds her poems not just from loosely connected thoughts and observations (though these abound), but also from splintered, incomplete dialogues. Copp does not limit herself to the interpersonal, however, and her poems repeatedly enter into exchange with other writing, with film, and with theater. In “Miracle Mare,” she writes: “We gaze at / vanishing, with nothing on I’ve never seen a / floor so verdure except in person.” As a reader, we keep watch while her poems returns upon themselves, like an ocean redoubled to meet the shore.