In Krysia Jopek’s Hourglass Studies, time is not only fluid, it is splintered, chunky, inscrutable, validating and at times disorienting, though in all of the ways that are good. One imagines that this highly original and inventive series of poems, numbered and quite often displaying a brilliant sense of wordplay, are the tiny grains of sand that make up the emblematic hour glass. We understand our sense of time by watching the grains of sand, one indistinguishable from another, fall through the trap door of glass and we set our lives’ such chronology, but Jopek goes so much further than this. It is as though she catches each grain, turning it this way and that until each gives up some aspect of life or lives’ that labor under our days, weeks, months and years on a planet that is burning up faster than before.
Her attention to detail and inventiveness with language is reminiscent of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, an experiment freeing language from previous and predictable forms in order to create not just new meaning, but multiple meanings. Jopek does this so well. Not only do we enjoy the words on the page but the playfulness excludes no one----everyone will be able to find meaning, albeit his/hers/theirs when reading her numbered lists---we become active participants in the work to create greater meaning.
Needing no titles and, in fact, there is not even a “contents” page, the poems begin immediately and are guided only by Roman numerals under which are numbered sentences, short little poems in and of themselves, creating a form of time all on their own. This is a literary wrist watch, wall clock, digital-night stand clock watching and documenting the film reels of our lives:
1. A clock points the exit of bliss balanced with the least
Sever bitterness. To want so much and turn over pliant grains
of sand without meaning.
This tells us nothing and everything at once about time as a concept, both incredibly
important and meaningless all the same.
Here, Jopek hints at how time collapses on us, we never feel as though we have enough:
6. A Week is too long to be running in the same direction, pulled
back to go further. Hurry up so we can relax, go!
And here a hint of how beholden we are to the weather and how we mark our days by it , but may be better off showing some resistance to its implied monotony.
3. The weather person assures there will be other beautiful days,
stuporous with transience, impinging a darkness folded within,
something [we’ve] never wanted to be a part of, that same cloth.
Under each Roman numeral is 12 poetic points, or mini-poems, perhaps following another designation of time, the year. This collection is nuanced, inventive, playful, deep, poignant and brilliantly defies characterization. One has to read it to get the full effect and to reap all of its rewards.
By Krysia Jopek
Crisis Chronicles, 2017
About Krysia Jopek: Krysia Jopek’s poems have appeared in The Great Literary Magazine, Crisis Chronicles Cyber Litmag, Gone Lawn 19, Meta/Phor(e) Play, Split Rock Review, The Woven Press, Columbia Poetry Review, The Woven Press, Columbia Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Phoebe, Murmur, Artists & Influence, and other literary journals. She has written reviews of poetry for The American Book Review. Maps and Shadows (Aquila Polonica), her first novel won a Silver Benjamin Franklin award in 2011 in the category of Historical Fiction.