Rods and Koans
Using word play, wit, juxtaposition, and the koan riddling tradition as inspiration, these poems trace the intersection of body, mind, and everyday objects. Exploring the personal and the ideological, they delve into the many ways the scientific, the political, and the philosophical infiltrate private spaces and also offer the hope that we can shape the spirit of that mingling and send new possibilities into the scientific, political, and philosophical realms.
“This is an inspired—and important—arrangement of fundamentals in an intellectual tag, a quick and constant interlacing of ideas to things, moments to possibilities, science to other sciences of belief and esthetics and desire. ‘It’s not always pretty, what holds us together.’ As it turns out, in these pages, what holds us together is, if not pretty, worthy of our full consideration. From elemental odes to precise definitions, rather than each acting in a vacuum, it’s the imaginative connectivity bridging differences that pulses in the heart of this collection. Through these pieces, we are edged toward a better grasping of the great jigsaw that is this world.”—Alberto Ríos
“Irena Praitis in her latest startlingly lucid collection RODS AND KOANS proves herself again a visionary, a poetic seer, who takes the games and twists of language and poises them in sharp relief, in shock of light, to get at deep heart truth. She turns the most commonplace objects into vessels of transformation, a kitchen sink becomes a microcosm for American greed, where ‘Drains throat more than water’ but a ‘river of waste we launch / earthward.’ This collection is a myriad of voices, a multitude of forms and structures and the philosophies of those who’ve walked these paths before and perhaps failed where we try again and fail some more—all woven into a tight and compelling narrative where the speaker asks the knives and flyswatters and periodic elements what does it mean to be human? Of water, what does it mean to be alive? Of salt, what does it mean to be home?”—Jenn Givhan
“From narrative, to lyric, to koans; employing allusion, disconnection, indirection, epigraphs, paradox, and wordplay (even the title puns); these poems invite readers to sense or ferret out connections, to decide how far down the rabbit hole to go—rewarding at every level: emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, sensually, in considering topically urgent themes—power, inequality, harm, healing, division, compassion, and acceptance, through quotidian and cosmic lenses, with lovely music and imagery: ‘I sense violence / in convenience,’ and ‘a floating cone / scooping lumens / out of shadow.'”—April Ossmann