Lynn Emanuel’s Transcript of the Disappearance, Exact and Diminishing is a roiling hybrid of autobiographical poems from a writer who has lived enough to know that all memoir is elegy, and who is so craft-proficient that her blazing dexterity seems second nature. She’s so on. So on it. Early on, the plague itself speaks, showing just how much delicious damage a poem can do: ‘I cut their throats / with the scythe of a comma, turned the snout of my pen against them.’ This is a book that dangles from the edges I’ve dangled from and drowns in a white coffee cup set within a noir mise-en-scène I understand. It is Lynn Emanuel’s masterwork.
Lynn Emanuel’s sixth collection of poetry is not sequential or straightforward. It has no conventional chronology, no master narrative. Instead, it is a life story, with all the chaos and messiness entailed therein. Transcript of the Disappearance, Exact and Diminishing is a commotion of grief and wit, audacious images, poems, and paragraphs. It explores and centers on the possibilities and limitations of art in the face of disappearances of many kinds, including the disappearance that is most personal—the poet’s own.
I erased the world so nothing can find it, snuffed out the roses, red and hot as the snouts of bombs, repealed the polar ice cap, even that fat oxymoron, the “industrial park,” has disappeared. And the last few words huddled together, like bees in a hive buzzing and plotting? I cut their throats with the scythe of a comma, turned the snout of my pen against them. I saved by erasing the streets and the people—let them be overgrown with absence. I don’t care—there is no limit to my appetite, my lust, my zeal for emptiness. But I know you—and you have kept a transcript of the disappearance.
As in classic noir, the poems in Transcript of the Disappearance, Exact and Diminishing open and shut like quick glimpses through window blinds: off-kilter, oddly lit, ominous. ‘Cinematic,’ yes, but not the director’s cut. As the author/auteur observes, this is a ‘mirror of lived experience.’ These heartsick, edgy, haunted poems stay camera distance from depression, pandemic, ghostly memory, and death, yet track the self with a voyeur’s passion. The imagined camera here ‘waiting for me in that emptiness’ never cuts away from inside the skull—yet frees an off-screen voice that’s killer-eccentric, focused and sheer, flickering brilliant.
Lynn Emanuel is the author of Noose and Hook, Hotel Fiesta, The Dig, Then, Suddenly, and most recently, The Nerve of It, which received the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her work has been collected numerous times in Best American Poetry and included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. She has been published and reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, BOMB Magazine, Poetry, and Publishers Weekly. She has been a judge for the National Book Awards and has taught at many venues including the Warren Wilson Program and the Bread Loaf Conference.