(Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2017)
Adam Giannelli seizes the fine line between light and dark while exposing the movement through language in his book Tremulous Hinge. He is able to display the conflict of time and language in the minutia of everyday life. Delirious and dreary, this book illustrates the mission of revealing the illuminous and nebulous. The very first poem, “Stutter,” encapsulates stuttering in language, and the lack of speech leads to other decisions and judgments made by humans. Therefore, being alone builds a safe place to speak out:
alone in my room I can
speak any word
Dialing into the wording and the structure “Stutter” displays that what the speaker is intentionally building is this idea of suppression in speech and behavior amongst society. Through the suppression, a time of freedom is created, hence, light verses dark. The connotation behind dark is alone; therefore, during that darkness, words are meant to actually roll out. When there is light, what the speaker wants to say is not expected. There is tension in the use of enjambment but also in the meaning. Form and content are married since the line breaks create the stutter and loss of words that the speaker has in mind. It pauses, thinks, and then starts:
since I couldn’t say tomorrow
I said Wednesday
since I couldn’t say Cleveland I said
since I couldn’t say hello
The wording is fascinating because the speaker is not saying I can’t, but rather “I couldn’t,” which implies a kind of resistance instead of restriction. The poem exhibits by a dark feeling of emptiness and disappearance. Speaking is a skill that is present, but the environment does not suit those who are outspoken. There is an emptiness hovering in the atmosphere; however, it is also freeing and liberating since it is strategically planned out. The disappearance and reappearance of shadow, the space where light and dark collide, is connected to the ins and outs of its voice. Shadow speaks to the surface of the earth but only presents itself when and where it is asked to; it has to maneuver swiftly and silently without being heard. The speaker dissects and analyzes language to a point where the unstructured becomes a pattern of thought, adjustment, and statement. This constant train of thought dims the light in words and creates heaviness that weighs down the pureness of the speaker’s ideas.
Darkness travels through the other poems. In “How the Light Is Spent,” Giannelli exposes the light attempting to creep out. He writes:
Even the light accepts the trespasses
against it, so that a bit of shadow
chars the grass. Across the gravel
at the under pass
it makes a clean break
In these lines comes the feeling of discomfort and uncertainty through the presence of light. Giannelli makes it known that light does not reach dark places but rather creates the start of darkness. It becomes of importance for the light to interact with the dark due to the creation of shadow. In order to cast an escape route, there must be darkness. In the blur is where all is hidden. He goes as far as to personify light by expressing that the light makes a conscious decision. He writes:
There are places it won’t go—
the sea floor, the ingot of shadow
in a drawer.
Light has boundaries and restriction that it places upon itself. It acts like a visitor that enters when needed and exits when no longer needed. The poem, “My Insomnia,” continues the task of personification and how light is used for a purpose. This time, insomnia is being personified:
…my insomnia holds a flashlight under the covers—
not to conceal the light,
but to reduce the visible world to an amendable gleam, My insomnia.
What’s especially great about these three lines is the way Giannelli begins and ends lines with “my insomnia.” This repetition focuses on the real struggle and how insomnia tries different tactics to overcome its own wants and needs. It maneuvers through light and dark trying to find a way out without being discovered. The speaker attempts to plays with the image of reality by covering up any wants, creating a façade for society. The poems flip expectations by speaking about difficulties and depicting the fixes as if their issues are human-like. He continues:
My insomnia was its pride,
and never stoops to espresso or methamphetamine. It rolls out of bed,
forward and unrepentant,
into dusky latencies.
Throughout Tremulous Hinge, Giannelli aims to convey the struggles of communication within society by painting an image of the roles light and dark play. His poetry navigates twists and turns that reveals the selfishness of the world. It pulls at the strings of everyday normality, of loom and glow.
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Aminah Abutayeb is an Adjunct Professor at William Paterson University. She recently graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University where she obtained her MFA in Poetry. She is a poetry reader at The Literary Review. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories and Common Ground Review.