Reading Edge Effects, Jan Conn’s masterful eighth collection, is a little like looking at Edward Burtynsky’s photographs of real industrial wastelands; both visions are as gorgeous as they are terrifying, platforms for thought, even for activism, depending as they do on the energy of the viewer/reader for completion.
“Edge effect” is an ecological term that has to do with the effect on an ecosystem of the juxtaposition of contrasting environments. The poems of Edge Effects have their connection to ecological matters, but they also ride other sorts of edge throughout, entering an unstable reality in which both time and space are given to uncanny shifting, so it’s “easy to believe visible reality is merely one isolated phenomenon / among many.”
Many of the poems in the book are inspired by paintings and drawings, but none of them is the standard ekphrastic exercise: Jan Conn’s poems go deep. They are reinventions of often hyper-real environments—astonishingly rich and mobile, nightmarish, splintered, fragmentary and afflicted by flux. Readers of Edge Effects will be stirred by an involving, non-coercive, witnessing art of great power.
Praise for Jan Conn:
“[Jan Conn’s poetry] is embedded with contrast and contradictions, is harsh and pliable, full of starlight and fire and blood, and yet she achieves equilibrium that knocks the reader off kilter: look up from the page, steady yourself, and you are changed.” — Janet Grafton, on Botero’s Beautiful Horses
Edge Effects — Maple Tree Literary Supplement