Billie R. Tadros dissects the nature and impact of injury through varied lenses and styles in Graft Fixation from Gold Wake Press. This collection takes a linguistic scalpel to excoriate a car accident and reveal the musculature of physical and emotional trauma beneath. She transforms the clinical coldness of insurance letters, MRIs, and accident reports into evocative and passionate commentary. Through her approach, Tadros turns heavily clinical text into a comprehensive doctoral treatise on the function of language and the way it collides with the body, an engrossing method for a logophile like myself. She puts meaning under a microscope, which reveals inherent commentary on the way women are heard by medical professionals, how injury steals one’s passions and how trauma colors relationships. Her diverse methods often feel like an advanced figure skater performing a move with impossibly high difficulty and nailing it. It is so sublime that one must take a moment to marvel at it; however, there are other times when the landing goes awry and the reader is left confused.
The text immediately pulls the reader into its examination of accident through deliberate language as the first poem, “Accident Report as Homophonic Translation”, dismembers the accident report through incidents of parallel diction. She writes, “The passenger says that she was well / or the passenger said that she was a well. She was emptied.” This replacement of meaning pivoting around the word “well” is mirrored at multiple points in the piece and encourages multiple examinations to truly appreciate the poet’s linguistic dexterity. While many of the poems perform this kind of acrobatics, it is not the only trick up Tadros’s sleeve. She also toys with how sounds of language connect like notes in a scale. In “Cypress Knees as Metaphor for Synchronicity,” she describes that “the weather was heavy like / brick like break / the bric-a-brac scattering the road.” This section rang in my head as I preemptively made similar connections between words. MRI images spattered throughout serve as ekphrastic inspiration as well as poetic Rorschach tests, making their inclusion both fascinating and scintillating. Tadros also uses quite a bit of footnoting, which had mixed results for me as it occasionally interrupted the flow of the piece. I found it easier to experience these first without the notes, then reread with them to fully appreciate their impact. The most captivating poem for me is “Settlement is a Motor, Settlement is a Vehicle” because it turns, like a winding road, back on itself so deftly. The form uses repetition similar to a pantoum (a form I love) which makes each line resonate in two ways, branching each one’s meaning into two unique paths. “I cannot stand / for long periods of time” shifts to “I cannot stand / to atrophy.” Here, the meaning turns from the state the body exists to the emotional response of the body in pain. This piece is riddled with these types of transitions which are intentional and insightful.
Billie R. Tadros’s assemblage of an accident’s anatomy is an intense and intriguing journey worthy of close and repeated readings. Pick up your copy from Gold Wake Press
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