Once when /building block /Once when/nuclei/Once when/mitochondrial/When the town w(as)/historical/When the town w(as) prosperous/mountainous From Brenda Iijima & Annie Won Once When a Building Block – Horseless Press
I don’t do Iijima’s and Won’s chapbook justice by quoting it here, because it is as much visual as language- a collage of words and images based on the chemicals in our environment that are making us sick. Won a chemist and Iijima a poet that draws from the intersections of ecology, science, and gender, their collaborative work evokes the building blocks familiar to most of us first encountered in high school chemistry textbooks. The chapbook is inspired by Iijima’s “ill list”, a conceptual poem that lists the chemicals possibly killing poets.
Moving from the micro- to the macro-, not unliike chemists, the poets take apart the official-speak meant to numb the public from what is silently terrorizing us and juxtaposes it against words that are earthly and human, and seem to breathe. “Most excellent canopy/miniscule history/Miniscule molecule/cope and breath/Plychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids, for example in transformers, capacitors, and electric motors.” By doing this the poets retained the beauty of the elements that create and recreate us while reminding the reader of the damage “So many chemical-missing persons/For this, we apologize”. What I appreciate most when reading this chapbook is the reminder that in both chemistry and poetry ( humanity), there are the molecular, the poison, the beauty, the interconnectivity.