all one in the end—/ water
Author: Soham Patel
Publisher: Delete Press (2023)
With its title, all one in the end—/water, Soham Patel’s collection returns us to Lorine Niedecker’s masterpiece, “Paean to Place.” But Patel’s writing is also a push forward. Patel takes Niedecker’s torch as an early, anti-capitalist ecopoet and runs it into the twenty-first century. In these stunning pages, it’s not just enough “to leave the new unbought” (as Niedecker warned us). Here, we (as participants in this United Statesian dystopia) must question what’s been “given” to us. “Where was it written / This land is promised / to me?” Patel writes. Throughout these poems, Patel channels Niedecker’s percussive intellect and sonic brilliance: “Q: who in the world / is not worked up / right now? A: Whoever is / not overworked somehow.” These poems remind us of where we stand, compromised and conflicted, and call us to confront the questions and challenges that rise before us. Patel gives us direction: “I warranty me to learn all we can about this here rooted land we’ve just moved in.” She gives us hope: “If when there is a flood, even with water retained we are building a poetry here and high enough please come see us.” This is the slant rhymed sequel we didn’t know we needed.
Like Lorine Niedecker, who was born by and sworn to the Rock River, Soham Patel takes water as her teacher in this study of bonds, of what ties us to each other in this world in which “our narrative is not ours alone.” Pieced together like a daybook, paced like a travel journal, this book tracks a migratory life of “departures, arrivals, departures.” Its disparate modes and voices are united in their concern with place, poetry, relation, and ethics—and the Great Lakes are never far away, either. While it critiques capitalism, empire, and settler colonialism, all one in the end—/water also offers a record of complicities acknowledged and responsibilities taken. Its gracious pages honor the fluid bonds of sexuality and family, friendship and care, culminating in the kind of wild hopefulness only poetry can offer.
all one in the end—/water, Soham Patel’s lyrical paean to the ecopoetics of Brenda Iijima et al., meditates on the ends of the world, past and future, and, more apocalyptically, the end of the planet: “here I lament the end of the earth at the price of the state on a state paid product a very nice machine the university provides.” Raising her hand to her lips “to make the calling louder,” Patel cannot forget, as a matter of ethics, “every wing [she is] under as each gives [her] over.” Gliding from stanzaic lyrics to prosaic ruminations, each punctuated by paratactic disruptions, Patel dredges the histories of land and lands from the sediment of all we take for granted. Against this backdrop, family and friends offer sustenance and comfort against despair, even as she accepts that she “can save no one.” As for the natural world, it is, at present, precariously “here,” however often “ice on a lake breaks from the weight where a man stands.”