205.1: Barbara Tomash:: [non-] & [a-] & [re-] & [twi-]
1 August 2016
Over the last eight weeks, I've been working closely with students from China who are learning English. Together, we discuss English words as if they were atoms in the Large Hadron Collider. Smash apart a word like "submarine" and you get "sub" (below, beneath) and "marine" (involving water). Blow "agoraphobic" to smithereens and you'll find "agora" (a forum essential to public identity in ancient Athens) and "phobia" (fear of) in the dust pan. This week, the poems by Barbara Tomash develop their lyricism through the particles of our language. Thus "[a-]" evokes the "pericarp of a peach" without "center, stalk, or stem." In "[re-]," the function of [re]petition suggests the markings of flood waters on the outside of homes. These poems [re]turn me to those moments with my students when everyday, worn-out words become suddenly spooky and magical again, when in the "thin film of speech sound" every "germination is possible."