By Greg Bem
the invisible latent image
the amount of agitation
Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s latest book, Aerial Concave Without Cloud, is a flash of brightness amidst and understanding of brightnesses, a meditation on light while immersed in light. It is a book that was composed while exploring the short and long days in Iceland, Norway, and Wyoming. It is a book that moves forward with Lee’s consistent commitments to a living awareness, and phenomenological and ontological understandings of the self and the systems within and beyond the self.
It is a book of poetry that, when unpacked, feels alive, and dependent upon the infinite number of circumstances provided by the reader and their reading form. And yet it is consequentially personal, a book that reads wholly and wholesomely of being and of being unique and of being alone. Lee’s splicing of study, reflection, and explication cycle into a lively poetics both awake and propulsive.
I began my inquiry into light, simply: can I decipher a similar capacity to translate and speak the light with my living human body?
And by doing so, can I relinquish the intensities of an inherited orphan grief?
Lee’s intentions are provided in small, elusive bits and pieces. The “inquiry into light” is one of both knowledge and experience, often inseparable. The text carries us along, as Lee exhibits situation and the process of revelation. Far from dramatic, these epiphanies lend us the exquisite and mysterious analogous to Lee’s settings. To be dreaming beneath the aurora borealis, to be seeking the textures of light within the arctic: a sense of extremes is muted by a calm determination.
The poet’s abstract work, strongly centered in the early moments of the collection, is heartily energized through its sprawling forms. What I appreciate between the snippets of prose and the small slices of poetry is the robust push and pull of certainty and sequence; Lee’s forms are pleasantly natural, hardly forced or constrained. Other times the narrative takes over, leaving behind form to paint a deep portrait of emotional vulnerability, as seen below:
The high ice cliffs around the village loomed over us, even in this small shelter.
I didn’t know how to proceed.
This isolation. It devours.
Often the artist’s explorations into the world are strongly removed from the resultant output. Lee challenges this norm by bringing the experience of “retreat” and “exploration” into the text directly. Just as the name implies, Aerial Concave Without Cloud is thus a book that extends beyond its core themes, offering a meta navigation of those project experiences.
Lee embeds these engagements fluidly. That the poet’s world was shifted, shaped, scraped, and reassembled by way of these travels. Through extreme climates and environments, Lee finds a new home and structure for her research and her creativity.
When I think of breaks in a chain, my mind can’t also help but turn to wonder at continuities, at streaming extensions that failed to break. My imagination turns to light.
Like her previous work, Lee’s latest collection speaks volumes in its entirety. It is the latest advance through a lifelong personal journey. And while it fits snugly alongside her multimedia and poetry of the past, this book also, by way of its focus on light and immersion, evokes a sense of awakening. And yet despite the epiphanies and the discoveries, and the abstract wonder that binds them together, Aerial Concave Without Cloud is but one additional step forward. It is a liminal work and feels hyper realistic as a result. It invites us to think about Lee’s future, and what body of work we will read our way through next.
You can find the book here: https://nightboat.org/book/aerial-concave-without-cloud/
Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com