Author: Jacqueline Waters
Publisher: Ugly Duckling Presse (2017)
Commodore, Waters’ third poetry collection, is a book about care, both the two-way street of it and the hierarchy created by it. Or it’s about coming very close to your subject, intent on discerning shades of sentiment, full of nostalgia for things you didn’t really enjoy when they happened, concerned care might be an exploitable weakness, even as its cultivation becomes the only way to attract the mercy you will inevitably require…
"Jacqueline Waters is one of my favorite writers. How does she put her poems together? The architectonic images in this collection might provide some clue (for example, an office building whose breadth is significantly greater than its height so that it can’t, the speaker explains, truthfully be called a tower), or the intricate designs that her stanzas make on the page. Or it might be the tone that holds it all together, a perfect deadpan out of which emerges a demented moral vision whose contradictory precepts are candor and protection. (In her previous collection one of the poems was flanked by two other poems that were its guards.) Each line, like a branch from a decision tree, has an uncanny clarity that sometimes feels like reason itself. But something more than reason must be at work because in this atmosphere I seem to see considerably farther than the strength of mere human sight would allow—that’s the uncanny part."
"Wide-ranging in form and approach, this sly third collection from Waters interrogates the reciprocal relationship between inner speech and language as a mode of social communication… Waters suggests that voice is a social construct—that is only possible within a culture, yet resides within individuals even in the most solitary moments. This larger philosophical concern shapes the style of the poems, as the speaker’s interior monologues often read as a performance of ideals—of voice, identity, and narrative—that have been internalized. The performativity of the language comes through most visibly in the lineation, with its oddly timed pauses, evoking a sense of unease in a psyche populated by so many texts, voices, and personae."
"One of the most impressive achievements in Commodore is that we grow convinced by how the speaker sees the world: a field of forms always transforming. In “Scissor Half,” Waters writes “Really I’ve got to find a place / to lie down and go to work,” and we’re left thinking about the shape of that action. What kind of a place is that? ... The final poem “All Ears” is one of the long and rangy variety that turns over thought so well, and I feel I’m seeing as much as I am reading “Centered in the display of pens / is a small pad / stuck to the rack for testing.” After I'm taught to see more clearly by reading these poems, my attention on the world shows it to be “Generally squiggles, occasionally / the well-formed word.”"–4 Square Review