Poet­ry

If This Is the Age We End Discovery

Rose­bud Ben-Oni

  • Review
By – August 17, 2021

Rose­bud Ben-Oni’s If This Is The Age We End Dis­cov­ery is a work of spec­u­la­tive Lat­inx and Jew­ish poet­ry. Com­bin­ing Kab­bal­ah, Gema­tria, sci­ence, and exper­i­men­tal punc­tu­a­tion, the col­lec­tion explores how nul­li­fi­ca­tion and chaot­ic ener­gy can lead to transformation.

The Hebrew term Efes plays an espe­cial­ly promi­nent role in the third sec­tion of the col­lec­tion. The speak­er defines Efes in three ways: “(1) Mod­ern Hebrew for zero’//:://(2) In mys­ti­cal Jew­ish texts: to nul­li­fy, to con­ceal’” and:

(3) Poet’s pro­pos­al: respon­si­ble for Dark Ener­gy, vam­pire bun­nies & insom­nia; insa­tiable lover; ene­my of math­e­mat­ics & ele­gant equa­tions; Creation’s Twin; presents Nul­li­fi­ca­tion prop­er­ties as pos­si­ble Trans­for­ma­tion (rather than destruc­tion) of the quan­tum & the real” worlds; reveals Itself at the sin­gu­lar­i­ty of a black hole; does not abide by any law; changes the riddle.

The poems fol­low­ing this descrip­tion con­tin­ue to inter­twine mys­ti­cal, sci­en­tif­ic, and per­son­al explo­rations of Efes. Poet Wrestling with Derelict Space­craft” has the epi­graph “(—After Gema­tria).” It begins Before one what do you count,, which Ben-Oni notes is a ref­er­ence to a ques­tion asked in the Sefer Yet­zi­rah. From here, the poem moves back and back into noth­ing­ness, explor­ing deep­er pow­ers and degrees of Efes: unspeakable/​/​what I want/​/​::con­ceal­ment of Efes::”. (The super­script Efes indeed changes the rid­dle” — the form asks us to con­sid­er what it means to raise con­ceal­ment to the numer­i­cal pow­er of mys­ti­cal zeroness. This inclu­sion of lin­guis­tic math — book­end­ed in dou­ble-colons in a col­lec­tion frac­tured with punc­tu­a­tion — is what makes the book’s for­mal choic­es so riv­et­ing; like the crowns on cer­tain let­ters in the Torah, the exper­i­men­tal brack­ets, super­scripts, and colons with Ben-Oni’s words lead us to study not only their mean­ing but also the deep­er impli­ca­tions of their forms.

In Poet Wrestling with Her Empire of Dirt,” the nar­ra­tor writes ‚“Aba says light/​of my eyes,//where are you get­ting your sci­ence.” The col­lec­tion can be read as an answer to this ques­tion as Ben-Oni shows her math in all of its fierce, amal­ga­mat­ing ener­gy that man­ages to build even as it nul­li­fies. If This Is The Age We End Dis­cov­ery expands the bound­aries of Jew­ish poet­ics for­mal­ly and the­mat­i­cal­ly, and its com­bi­na­tion of mys­ti­cism, sci­ence, and verse leave all fields transformed.

Alli­son Pitinii Davis is the author of Line Study of a Motel Clerk (Baobab Press, 2017), a final­ist for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award’s Berru Award for Poet­ry, and Pop­py Seeds (Kent State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2013), win­ner of the Wick Poet­ry Chap­book Prize. She holds fel­low­ships from Stan­ford University’s Wal­lace Steg­n­er pro­gram, the Fine Arts Work Cen­ter in Province­town, and the Sev­er­ing­haus Beck Fund for Study at Vil­nius Yid­dish Insti­tute. Her poet­ry appeared in Best Amer­i­can Poet­ry 2016. She is a PhD stu­dent at The Uni­ver­si­ty of Tennessee.

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