Jamie Mortara is something like magic. It comes as no surprise, then, that their first collection with YesYes Books transcends the page, holds the reader, and proves that poetry still has the power to surprise. Some Planet feels more like a handbook on coping, a guide to intimacy, or a brochure on alternate dimensions than anything else. Each poem is, in more ways than one, an experiment on interacting with reality and discovering the disconnected parts of yourself that you never thought you would find again. The big, ugly emotions that Mortara drags to the surface of their work are uncomfortable and overwhelming, but the act of pulling them out is a necessary battle—especially for those who have waded through the mire of depression, anxiety, and loss. In ‘Pressing Spirals,’ they write, “still stuck / still muffled and mumbled in my own snowdrift / my own pinball kind of think / my shaking storm hands / my forest tongue,” and I struggle to think of a more apt recreation of the tension that can only arise from being trapped inside ones thoughts. Mortara finds the vein and presses against it, but it’s the good kind of hurt.
Each page is a different question, and it is unclear whether the narrator is asking the reader or themselves. Part of the glory of Mortara’s book is that the answer is up to you. Beyond masking itself as a collection of gut-wrenching poetry, the works in this book are deeply personal and wholly unique pieces of Mortara, pulled from their body and set loose on the world like in ‘How Many, How Much,’ which says, “tell me / tell me how many times must i be a terrified little rabbit trapped inside of herself / how many hands must run soft over her ears before she won’t expect one of them to go for her neck." It is easy to say that a writer places themselves on the page, but it is another thing altogether when the poet nestles in the spine of the book and reads the words to you.
To say nothing of the complex variety of experimental poetry peppered throughout the collection would do the book a grave injustice, but describing the experience of a paper fortune teller that folds each line of the poem against your fingers is something uniquely tangible and otherworldly. Mortara takes their poetry to intricate and stunning new boundaries, instructing the reader to analyze a parse table, study flow-charts, hunt for biblical verses, acquaint oneself with perfect strangers, tally and monitor the ten o’clock news, and consider the implications of basing choices around the flip of a coin or the roll of a die. Poetry like this is a reminder of why the genre is so deeply and irrefutably crucial for culling self-doubt.
So much of life is endings, and so much of poetry is a reflection on that loss. Some Planet turns a keen eye toward starting over and second chances, as seen in ‘Heaven,’ where Mortara muses on their desire for a second chance from God, “if only he’d just send you back to try again,” which bleeds perfectly into the next poem, ‘How To Start,’ the final piece in their collection, which begins, “well at first you must start in the dark. this is one of those things people say like: i am in the dark. but really, i mean shut the lights turn off the world sit in the dark and talk to yourself.” Mortara wants you to face your demons, and after finishing Some Planet, I am all too happy to oblige.