BrickHouse Books 2013 $12.00
A review by Sonja James
Beginning with the title, GLTTL STP, Doritt Carroll’s new book of poems encourages us to consider the importance of what is present and what is absent in our understanding of the world. Though Carroll has removed the vowels from the title, she kindly defines herself and her project by clarifying the title in the epigraph at the beginning of the book. “GLTTL STP” is “glottal stop,” which is “a sound produced in speech or singing by a momentary complete closure of the glottis.” This is also described as “a tightening or choking off of sound.”
Carroll simplifies this definition in the title poem, “glttl stp.” She clarifies herself in the opening lines: “everything good/is in the things/that we don’t say.” She then gives examples of “glottal stop” with images from everyday life: the space between sculptures in a museum, the moment before a struck match bursts into flame, and the tension in the air before a recess bell rings. She concludes with the image of two birds pausing in their song “because it was/the right place/in both of their songs/to pause/the/glottal stop.”
After establishing these parameters of the spoken and the unspoken, Carroll then decides on the concrete content of exactly what she is willing to reveal about herself in subsequent poems. In the poem, “2010,” she writes of the death of her father while distancing herself from it. She writes of herself in the third person: “the year her father died/Christmas wasn’t awful/just divided.” In “report,” Carroll reverts to the first person and gives a cheerful account of an ordinary day of life.
The upbeat mood does not last. She then writes four poems that are reflections on various aspects of death: “final commendation,” “death poem #5,” “in re: the scheduled rapture,” and “erasure.” The opening lines of “erasure” sum up the finality of death: “everybody dies the same/boning up like skeletons/stinking like toilets.”
In “first apt.,” Carroll turns to a different subject when she describes an incident of marital discord between a newly married couple. In “to each,” she elaborates on the theme of relationships:
we come into this place
trailing clouds of others
daughters and husbands
mothers we hated
lovers we rejected
and forgot about
The closing poem of the volume, “edits,” compares life to the act of poetic creation. Carroll addresses herself as “you:” “you’ve already written the poem/but now you have to fix it.” The poem she speaks of stands for the act of living one’s life. Everything in the poem is “in the wrong order” and the poem and she have “never really gotten along.” The poem can’t be erased because it has been written “in ink.” At this point she tells herself “there’s no more blank paper/so the only thing you/can really do with it is/revise/revise/revise.”
And so the volume concludes with this note of hope. Life in its permanence and vast array of mistakes can be revised. Carroll has spoken, revealing herself as one who is overtly silent and yet profoundly vocal. This is “glottal stop.” The vowels have been restored in this book celebrating and defining what one poet is willing to say and not say. The poems in GLTTL STP transport us to the edge of speech and then save us from any temptation to leap in despair. This is an exciting book and one worth reading.
Sonja James is the author of Baiting the Hook (the Bunny & the Crocodile Press, 1999), Children of the Moon (Argonne House Press, 2004), and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).
Poets are invited to submit recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at firstname.lastname@example.org