Review: On Endings

on endings,
by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue, Julia Hölzl and Jennifer Hope Davey,
Delere Press, 124 pp.

on endings, written by alumni students of the European Graduate School, Allison Grimaldi Donahue, Jennifer Hope Davy, and Julia Hölzl, unravels itself at the intersection of waiting, desire, finitude, and openness. Split into three different sections, “Notes on the Oblivion of Desire”, “I see everything that you have said around you”, and “ENDINGS”, each section locates itself in the spirit of the eerie, where the lost and found have not yet been identified, and the purpose of life exists only insofar as it has not yet been imagined. The book sets a landscape into the blurry illusion of the unknown and the uncanny postulations it garners. Though serious, it is also full of humorous remarks and human appendages. The reader is presented with a mechanism by which the romantic titillates the mundane, enhancing her ability to sift through the stifled and the breathless while embracing the feeble closure of any ending, and the boundless possibility situated in the realm of waiting.

The book’s pages are contextualized by Maurice Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion. To wait is to anticipate that there is something worth waiting for. The waiter exists in an ephemeral state, positioned at the brink of an event. I wait for my lover to return from the grocery store, but unbeknownst to me, he’s been in a terrible accident. The longer I wait, the longer I can extend my ignorance; the longer the current realities of my world will perpetuate; the longer I can avoid the confrontation of the real. But to wait can be frustrating, and as time stretches, I may find myself misconstruing facts for anxieties. Perhaps I do not consider my lover has not been in an accident, but instead, I begin to imagine him in the bedroom of a younger woman. As I continue waiting, my desperation grows carnivorous, and then dims to a dull flame. I can reconstruct the terms of my anxieties, but I cannot stop waiting for an event which will never occur. And thus, the act of waiting becomes the event itself.

Allison’s poems are striking, recollecting the past with the present while avoiding nostalgia. Her language suggests a longing for something not quite past and not quite future. To put a name to them is to kill them, and yet the unrelenting craving to know them prevails. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, then, that Davy’s photographs are all untitled. The photos together amass to an openness. There is not a single photograph in the collection which doesn’t, in even the smallest detail, suggest a lack of finite tethering. The first photo, a glass statue without its head, arms, or left leg, has no end. It is not entirely translucent, but clear enough that the body absorbs whatever is behind it. It begins this way, suggesting that our interpretation of the moment is bound by what came before it and what will come after. Can we exist in the present if we have no future? Does the glass statue rely on its backdrop for materiality? Almost every photograph has its own page, tenacious space for potential. Where there is blankness, there is the possibility for resolve.

Desire is always slipping away, the greatest dreams flirt with the precipice of the greatest nightmares. We are often too afraid to submit to the triumph of language, tempting ourselves with the compulsion of saying too much or too little, eternally scraping away at the sentiment’s actual intent. But Allison’s poems provide some sort of relief from this anxiety, certain lines yield an essential clarity for navigating the book’s elusive pages. She offers language as an ever-affecting vehicle, despite any intelligibility of the words from the orator. Words will always move, always affect. For the ritual of language is not necessitated on understanding, but the desire to understand. The more illusory the statement, the more investigative the project for comprehension becomes. Thus, the speaker and listener are fixed in an interminable loop based on desire: desire to interpret, desire to honestly declare, desire to know what it is after.

Allison charges toward the greatest tensions in our contemporary world with a persistent eccentricity. She is honest, vulnerable, and determined, concerned not with authenticity but pondering. She turns statements into questions, declarations into fantasies, endings into beginnings. There is no erasure here, there is only unabated mobility.

Hölzl’s language is wise and contemplative, and reads almost like a map with directions to Blanchot. Her words often swing back around, repeating themselves and circling back on previous ideas. Such is the point: the same is never entirely the same, and a fully expressed idea is never entirely complete. Hölzl offers deep musings on the nonlinearity of time expressed in conversations and anticipations. Discrepancies in sameness and difference, in binaries and boundaries. She explores the mutability between presences and absences, the reality of feeling someone only when they are far away. She reflects on the finnicky nature of moments, wherein everything and nothing simultaneously occur.

The book offers itself as an assemblage of thoughtful reveries relating to each other. To begin the book is conceivably to finish it, and so the book never really begins nor ends. There can be no simple beginnings or endings, and perhaps what we think we have finished we have only started. I’m highly impressed with the material here. I have let it serve me to ameliorate some of my own anxieties, investigating the provincial presumption of endings, and finding joy in the mode of waiting.

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