The Fact of the Matter

Sally Keith, Author
Sally Keith. Milkweed (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-57131-448-2
Reviewed on: 08/20/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
"I'd obsessed over all the old systems," asserts Keith in this third book, in which she creates systems—through leaps and variation—to subvert them. In "Knots" she writes, "The spine is a series where action begins," later continuing, "The spine is a series of knots under skin," and builds up to: "On a ship full of species the rhinoceros arrives in Portugal, a gift for the king.// It had been over one thousand years since anyone in Europe had seen one." At their best, these acrobatic movements from one fact or phrase to a disparate other are not whimsical non sequiturs but revelations bridging history and the inner life. For Keith, discoveries in any discipline—from physics to painting—push humanity forward ("In 1621/ Johannes Kepler/ switches out ‘soul'/ for ‘force'"), and myth is used not as a crutch for meaning, but as an anchor for new discourse on selfhood in our moment: "Achilles refusing and refusing to eat/ Moment you already know: Achilles and the ambrosia/ so again fate might be complete—look steadily—/ Moment before the action takes place." Keith admits "Our history was not at all unusual" and still "One travels to the edge/ to see what always is." (Nov.)