The sky is like a poem is like the body in that all three are composed – what we experience as “inevitable” or (worse) “natural” – limitless blue expanse, for example – might only be a membrane that enables us to scrabble about on this fragile orb at the edge of nowhere. The page is no less silent, smooth or matte surface over which to cast our dreams, our fears. Hassen Saker is at the eye of the storm for a new generation, lyric & personal & analytic & tough, committed to no medium but the truth. This is a book of wands.
Hassen Saker’s Sky Journal is a book of destinies and losses, of ghosts and possibilities, of divination and continuity. The continuities Saker renders are complex, full of “difficult portals,” “shards of too-bright memories,” the “intimacy of cemeteries.” These are “all points on a hidden map.” While “everything is melting without end/(and elsewhere freezing” “words will tell themselves/the little monsters.” Our guide wonders “now how to dredge the distressed heavens/of my words” and warns “stay away from the study of thought, son.”
The book is a repository and an invocation, made of meteorology and language and event, of creatures and of time; it is a place where news of foreign wars fit like “burrs” to our deaf feet, even as it is as well a seamless, motive place, like emotion and like weather. This is the struggle she proposes and narrates, bears witness to: the struggle to integrate so much in-formation, with honor and with heart, because “we keep time too rigidly/some matter requires sustained perception.”
Hassen Saker’s Sky Journal proposes three ways of getting to the heart of matter. In three sustained sequences (“From Land,” “From Sea,” “From Sky”), Saker “think[s] in sensation,” admitting that she (we, any 21st-century subject) “must sit with all the contradictions” that method entails. The book begins in “From Land” with a visual and perhaps historical “elevation,” a vantage from which to take in the view. But unlike the Romantic, who both surveys and defines the sublime from his own icy pinnacle, Saker carefully dismantles sublimity’s power over language. Her “tormenta,” the thunder and lightning that punctuate her researches and revelations, are both psychic and climatic, and yet they effect a gentle “glubbing soporific” humor, too. “Complexity/chaos/quantum uncertainty” devolve upon the “ s e l f branching o u t ” of the final section, certainly more invitation than conclusion. Invitation to “blow your own mind” (as she would have it)—or let Hassen Saker do it for you.
The dilemma Sky Journal poses is what to do with these precise evocative poems. I put an excerpt on my teacup “…some things require sustained perception”; on my window “degrees of horizon slither past”; to accompany my plants in the corner “slow going mess through fall in leaf bed to oh where i left off love blinks fifteen years”; and two places on my ceiling to catch the occasional “look skyward”. Re-encounter, immerse, savor and …. read them, yes but I suggest u do something with these fierce beautiful poems too.
Sky Journal is an intricate and enigmatic work that juxtaposes, sometimes paralogically, degrees of solidity, qualities of light and color, and spectra of emotion. In it, there are “hundreds of miles of solid sky,” “phosphorous things” and “succulent thought,” “ethereal invertebrates,” and “a rock I’ve loved” not too far from an “anemone.” In it, “crystal dendrites prepare to melt.” It calls stars both “breathing holes” and “branding irons.” It calls into being “particles reflecting the senses maybe dark matter also…” … I daresay it’s a work of physics…Listeners, please welcome the intensely focused fluid energy and three dimensional perspicacious magnifying glass that is hassen.
““biology’s hopefulness / tissue’s patience” writes hassen in her wonderful Sky Journal. those seem like words Thoreau could’ve written, because the observation is keen and exacting. not that hassen’s cart needs to be tied to Thoreau’s horse, I just find the resonance comely. I like how, in the poetry hassen writes, the writer largely disappears into words in motion, and the motions seem fresh with currents, breezes and eddies. something very tender survives that disappearance, tender and brave. hassen’s poetry touches warmly, gives, hints, engages and stays grounded. it mediates and meditates with a resource of delight and integrity. I definitely like and admire this poetry.” ~ Allen Bramhall
“in sky journal: from land, hassen writes, “to measure/ electricity of transformation,” and this feels like a voicing of this phenomena apparent in her work. things are changing, both words and images, and it is vibrant, trustworthy, rather than jarring. in [salem’s] “tonight,” she writes, “is this/ meditation or do you study your own images in me.” and, again, the reader or listener is brought into a visual language, a language that is both “radically artistic,” fluid, “and perhaps even transcendental.” i heard hassen read her work out loud months before i ever saw it on the page. a lot of the time when i enjoy work read aloud, i often do not like it on the page. but hassen’s balance between the tangible and the abstract, the verbal and the visual, makes for a poetics that maintains its omnipotence both out loud and on the page.” ~ Erica Kaufman
An interview with Manufactured Dissent from 2011