Thalia Field, Point and Line
New Directions, New York, 2000
144 pages, $14.95

by Catherine Kasper

Point and Line is a playful and intelligent experiment with language and genre. These "pieces" amuse, provoke and parody the conventions of poetic line, narrative, script, setting and plot, and finally with the notion of "book." Point and Line begins with a piece entitled "Outline, In My Mind" which works like a conceptual table of contents whose parts take on a cumulative narrative, culminating in an "Index of Irrational Thoughts." In keeping with this parody of "book" is the final "Impotence of First Lines" which is equally amusing in its ability to cast "lines" as a type of poem all its own, often reveling in puns and the impossible game of art’s distillation.

Field has created a playground of provocative thoughts and human actions which become performance on the page. As the epigraph suggests, the page is sometimes seen as canvas, as an opportunity for intersection of prose "lines" and lines of sight as well as for explorations of "point" and "significance." Like the "points" in a compass, as in "The Compass Room," spinning turns points into lines that open out into infinite space. Set in geographically varying places "The Compass Room" is ultimately a story of direction, of points in time and space where relationships form and are changed. The "compass" spins through domestic scenes, through "Glass. Steel, Natural light," "winter pockets," "the space between stairs" "door knobs," "closets" and through sex, pregnancy and tumors. "Characters in tragedies are defined only by their actions, " Field quotes, reminding us, among other things, to question rules and assumptions. How much is a matter of perspective? Of reading and interpreting maps? "On humid days the house sweats maps: red and blue until one of us gets up to leave, when dishes whiz up the trees on toy train tracks." Field’s is an imaginative vision not trapped by rooms’ borders.

She is working beyond the notions of purely "literary" forms, where page is also the possible "theater" for the meeting of characters, language and the subversion of expectations: "A billboard comes down piece by piece. You thought you heard me/say something? A wall, a line, a galaxy, or the flesh of our heads/stands between us. Where you see a barrier, there is a place of opportunity." (A:1). Field is continually breaking barriers in this book, tearing them down "piece by piece." In the play entitled "Hours," un-stage-able acts occur:

The coke machine is mercilessly raped. Maps get some genuine affection and the brochures dive jealously beneath plastic tables. {2 great thinkers of the age} hang out near the phone booths, accepting calls. As the highway bill passes the senate, caterpillars fear to begin. Figures in the woods start gaining ground and vocabulary. Grounds for divorce become exponentially impossible.  ("Hours")

Inanimate objects come to life, dialogue questions its own creation and existence. All of life is basis for the Acts; life itself is the performance in all its scientific strangeness and emotional subtlety.

As the plane makes its final approach, the disease has spread into all the remaining tissues of darkness.  ("Hours")

Crisp and comic, Field’s language is also poetic. The diction encompasses not only domestic spaces but scientific space: comets, meteors, animal, insect, plant, and bird "species," space and light, all in a spirited dance with the "creative germ."


BIO: Catherine Kasper is presently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her poetry, fiction and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Conjunctions, The Colorado Review, the Denver Quarterly, How2, Many Mountains Moving, The Metropolitan Review, Mid-American Review, Notre Dame Review, The Ohio Review, Private Arts, Quarter After Eight, Rain Taxi, Sniper Logic, Western Humanities Review, Women s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and VOLT.



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