Track This: A Book of Relationship by Stephen Bett is an emotionally generous collection of stylistically spare poetry reminiscent of the work of Ezra Pound and e.e. cummings. As the title of the book suggests, the poetry collected therein tracks the evolution of a single relationship, but it does so in ways that will likely challenge the casual reader to rethink conventional notions of language.
(Parenthetical statements, for example, tend to open without closing. A commentary on the nature of relationships, perhaps? On the contingency of the ties that bind? We enter into these deals with other human beings without knowing how or when or whether they will end. We hope, for the most part, that they will go on forever, but…
(Ah, yes, he uses ellipses, on occasion, too. And, to be sure, some of his parenthetical expressions both open and close.)
All of this is to say that by toying with the conventions of language, Bett draws attention to the ways in which language and relationships are given to the same types of uncertainty. More to the point, his poetry suggests that just as the uncertainty of language — the inability of words to capture the ineffable, the sublime, the exact essence of a moment or feeling or heartbeat — does not stop us from attempting to communicate, the unlikeliness of ever connecting one’s soul to that of another will not stop us from trying. We love because we want to connect, the poems in this volume suggest, and it’s in the attempt, in the grappling we do in the dark among the interstices of communication and amidst the firing of neurons, that we find the agony and ecstasy of all that makes life worth living.