Reviews, Vol. 6.2, June 2012
Art by Alicia Paolucci
Saddle-stitched, unnumbered, $10
Review by Cynthia Reeser
It’s brief, but every word packs a punch. The design of So Below by Noel Sloboda is clever and appealing, and is every bit a part of the book as the poetry it contains, all five pieces. The book is a treat, with a four-page, fold-out, two-color illustration created and screen-printed by Alicia Paolucci. The image shows a man in (presumably) his yard atop a riding lawnmower.
The illustration is fitting to the form. The opening poem, “Entanglements,” features a rural setting implying a return to nature. In the poem, the filaments of spider webs drape the trees, some sort of invisible web (both literal and metaphorical) serving as a medium of connection:
unseen threads speak to a vision
too broad for one pair of eyes.
Everything is connected in the poem, and the speaker of the poem sits, yes, “Atop [his] John Deere”; even he is connected to the earth, by his labor.
In “As Above,” we come to understand nature as a vantage point. The author writes from a point of view that is seemingly humbled and in awe of its natural surroundings: he is an observer. By the concluding poem, “Middle-age As a Mailbox,” we see those spider webs again:
The hand of authority
daily puts itself inside
my hollow head,
far from formal
but leery of spider webs
deep in the back.
This time, the webs are functioning on a new metaphorical level, a universal fear: the dimming of old age, the mental cobwebs that threaten at the periphery of consciousness.
As a whole, the book comes together in its themes of the human condition which at first appear couched specifically within the bucolic setting but later reveal themselves as universal themes. The book is both about how we are connected, and how we are trapped: in bodies (“Middle-age As a Mailbox” and “Polaroids”), in regard to perspectives (“X-Ray Vision”), in society (“As Above”), and in nature/the natural world (“Entanglements”). As the saying goes — ‘as above, so below’ — we can see the macrocosm through the microcosm, God through the entanglement of spider webs.