Time Being



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2020
82 pages, 6×8 inches
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9781609387167
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9781609387174

“‘After great pain, a formal feeling comes,’ wrote Emily Dickinson. In Oni Buchanan’s wrenching Time Being, a formal feeling comes not after, but during pain. The last, best resource for mastering overwhelming emotion is form, and here, Buchanan invents jagged, contrapuntal forms that allow her to paradoxically organize the unorganizable—the agony of grief. Buchanan’s trademark brilliant agility with language takes on a bleaker shading in these poems, as she interrogates how syntax breaks down or is broken down by transactions. But her wizardry keeps opening up small, tenacious, miraculous expanses of hope: ‘there is not one single wonderment left,’ she writes—but her book contradicts it on every page.”—Donna Stonecipher, author, Transaction Histories

“Like finely cut gems in startling, experimental settings, the poems of Oni Buchanan’s Time Being both attract awe and disrupt expectations. One part lamentation over love gone awry, one part comedy of late capitalism’s Orwellian absurdities, this collection of monologues offers us a world of jaggedly beautiful, bewildering forms: tours of robotically populated factories, stories of prosthetic mermaid tails, a stunning new take on Thomas Wyatt’s ‘Whoso List to Hunt.’ If Buchanan’s speaker knows all too well how corporate Darwinism makes us ‘understand the numbers are against [us]/the odds are against [us]’ she also recognizes ‘We//are each other’s/witness that we’re//alive.’ Full of mordant wit and hypnotic velocity, Time Being often takes us to a horizon we might recognize in the photographs of Hiroshi Sujimoto: facing the turbulent, primal sea, a figure confronts a ‘silence in the midst of a roar daring me to speak,’ and indeed, every poem here feels like a roaring, brilliantly managed dare.”—Michael Tyrell, author, The Wanted

“Each poem in Oni Buchanan’s Time Being is a solitary deer, ‘wild for to hold’ and charging into ‘the howling preamble to a hurricane . . . vault[ing] beach debris . . . white gates of bramble-reaches uprooted from the scrub.’ The wreckage is uncharted, prevailing systems range from inadequate to inhumane, and the instrument of direction is a ‘sextant // calibrated to a cruel / constellation.’ The book is a reckoning between the past and the present unfolding, the light diminishing minute by minute as the speaker, poised on the brink, finally confesses her impasse: ‘Everyone’s waiting for / me to act / and I’m waiting / for me too.’ One astonishment of these poems is how they invent new containers with which to calibrate an infinite sorrow and pain and wonderment, dividing this immeasurable quantity into precise and impossible units—one ‘imperial,’ one ‘cruelty,’ one ‘cosmic distance’—in an attempt to ‘achieve the / skill set blossom- / scatter fluency’ to collapse the distance between desire and its value. ‘The problem / is the scale // of the mystery,’ Buchanan writes—and spending time inside these singular poems, we too ‘sail a chambered vacuole to the cellular edge,’ the horizon of simultaneous, irreconcilable worlds.”—Allison Titus, author, The True Book of Animal Homes

As time beings, what we have is the time being, the present moment, however compromised, however shattered. Buchanan’s characteristic combination of wry humor, nerve, empathy, wisdom, and outrage exposes the laughably absurd and the evisceratingly tragic all at once.

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