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Umber is a collection of excavations, a harking back to past lives that now only exist as sentences. In these six poems, that give a body to the phantoms of public histories as well as those of intimate memories, Owen Vince offers us a language for “climbing out of wounds.”
Nadia de Vries
Owen Gv has given us, less a book of poems than an intertextual journey. We are standing on the edge of a field covered in fresh snow and the sky is umber and the violence of a very old massive locomotive is barreling down towards where we stand. We are afraid it will stop for us. We are fearful it won’t. We rub our worn ticket with our thumb like a lucky charm—further smudging the Cyrillic writing on it. We raise our heads and the scream of the whistle as the train is upon us and the screech of the brakes as it grinds down to a stop, pistons hissing in anger. The door slides open. Do we board?
These poems defy summation. Their spaciousness and capriciousness won’t allow it. Their hard-won craft won’t stand for it. And the tension – the tension runs like invisible wires through it all – won’t bear it. Owen Gv writes with the conviction of a saint. Here he tells us that this is the third attempt to write this book and that the first two attempts were erased from existence [read: saved] and thank god for that because the world could not handle this much beauty.
Ten years ago I began writing a book, or part of one. It was meandering and, without a shadow of a doubt, extremely bad. Sometimes you make things precisely in order to delete them. Sometimes, things are coming eternally into existence. Obviously—or, obvious to me—I deleted the file, and then pretty much forgot about it.
I would later attempt to rebuild that book—incompletely, from memory. That was a partial revival. This is a third attempt at its reconstruction. A fudge-drunk + compressed history of 1930s Russia and the show trials and the arrests of artists that defined those years; an account of what computer-aided memory loss does to us, &c our histories; + a survey of the sucking melancholia that drove the first attempt, and the lightness that shaped each later attempt, and the fragile inaccessibility of our own memories, which are called memories for a reason, i guess. Each text corresponds, incorrectly, and inaccurately, to a location or place or event in the original version. These are, unavoidably written through my own experiences between, roughly, 2013 and now. That’s all I can remember.
– Owen Vince