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Plainsight by Justin Runge

Plainsight by Justin Runge

Reviews, Vol. 7.4, Dec. 2013
New Michigan Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-934832-38-7
Perfect bound, 37 pp., $9
Review by Cynthia Reeser

Justin Runge’s America is one of endless stretches of highway, carbon-choked cities, factories, vast fields, borders, and liminal spaces. With an eye for all the detail a landscape holds, he withholds nothing. His poems are ultimately image-driven and effectively visual. His is a land where,

Locked land
is still water-
drawn.
[…]
To demarcate
goes horizon
far. The lines
at times appear
after mowing.
And from mid-
bridge. Merge
west.

This is a bird’s eye view of a land that is “demarcate[d],” “locked,” its “lines” visible from the “horizon.” These divisions are part and parcel of the invisible boundaries within which we all live and work. Within the spaces Runge lays out for us are people, the audiences of those spaces, whatever those may be—factory, train, bridge, highway. This landscape is also a space where people intersect with the natural world:

A village
surrounds
the factory,
forms a sort
of perimeter.

On a craft level, concision of language and a strong sense of movement are Runge’s hallmarks. Every word counts, and the short line breaks lend to the poems’ forward momentum: we are always moving ahead, going somewhere. Reading his work is like being in transit: train, car, bus.

The title of the collection itself, Plainsight, points to the larger meaning of the collected work. In the midst of our everyday spaces and experience—the things and people we see daily, the mundane—there is more to experience, hidden in plain sight. We just have to look; we have to be better observers of the world in which we all live and move.

Splinter by Amy Ash

Debts & Lessons by Lynn Xu

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