by Betsy Fagin
All is not yet lost bears witness to the interconnectedness, and interdependence that is unearthed in the fertile chaos of change. Through the cycles of degradation, disintegration and necessary resurrection that shape the dance of environmental, political and personal revolution we find common dreams and common ground: “a bond of love exists… the miraculous present.”
These poems gather in a kind of aftermath, as characters, as shadows of events, stalking late night deserted streets. In the flickering of debris. The body that ‘used to could’ hovers about the poems in a strange death: a silence before the cycle of human endeavor resets—‘my will become rock.’ I marvel at what Fagin can do in the space of a line, what she hears of the world, how she re-shuffles what she hears, making beautiful truncated structures that you will want to underline, to post, to score into a wall.
Betsy Fagin’s poems seem to operate under and above this world’s bent surfaces and shadowy infrastructures, teasing out its harrowing, occasionally loving idiosyncrasies from intimate distances. It’s like the poems know what’s been superimposed onto reality to play at reality, and they speak from curious, tough, funny and live-sounding breaks to expose—and handle—the cracks in the game. I’ve admired Fagin’s ability to place words in clear, elusive, instructional and cosmically present and afflicted roles—without telegraphing any of those roles—for a long time. It’s a real pleasure to finally get a longer run of her work in one place.
Betsy Fagin’s All is not yet lost is a luminous love letter to revolution, of resistance to a slow death in capitalism’s arms. The poems delve into the fatal disconnect between capitalism’s cold heart and humanity’s hot, beating one. Fagin fearlessly reclaims language, space, and ourselves; this book is a song for office and kitchen workers as well as a challenge to the powers that be.
If occupation is not solely event but extension and process, a means amplified such that revolution might rightly appear in retrospect, then Betsy Fagin’s poems gather and spin back into circulation language that marks our readiness to show up. The poems take a stand for attention. The thrill of reading is solidarity.
Betsy Fagin is an activist, poet and librarian who explores the territory where art, information access and political engagement through direct action meet. She received degrees in literature and creative writing from Vassar College and Brooklyn College and completed her MLS degree in Information Studies at the University of Maryland where she was an ALA Spectrum Scholar. She is the author of Names Disguised (Make Now Books, 2014), Poverty Rush (Three Sad Tigers, 2011), the science seemed so solid (dusie kollektiv, 2011), Belief Opportunity (Big Game Books Tinyside, 2008), Rosemary Stretch (dusie e/chap, 2006) and For every solution there is a problem (Open 24 Hours, 2003). She was a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Writer-in-Residence during 2012-2013.
Photo by Lisa Mackie