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Permanent Volta by Rosie Stockton: the Queer Poems of Intimacy We’ve all Needed

Permanent Volta by Rosie Stockton: the Queer Poems of Intimacy We’ve all Needed

Author: July Westhale

June 3, 2021

And here they are: the queer poems of intimacy we’ve all needed—even if we didn’t realize we needed them. 

Rosie Stockton’s collection, Permanent Volta (Nightboat Books, May 2021) is equal parts lamentation and psalms: “[W]here I grind the language / out of myself,” they write, and “everyone is invited / to my / biggest storm.” The poems contained in Permanent Volta take on many forms (sestinas, bent sonnets, fragments, prose, etc.) in which readers can find themselves as individuals: “look at how my worlds / want your worlds / look at our worlds / wanting other worlds / porous the mist we / love by.” Readers will further find themselves in Stockton’s syntax, in which the language of poetry is artfully and self-consciously considered. The poems are intentional in their grammar and refuse to bend to the will of the workshop. The effect of Stockton’s language—fragmented and lovely and conscious of construction—invites us to consider poetry as an industry itself. If we, as readers and poets, decide to create our own grammar, what does this say about language as a tool of conquest? What does this say about our own unwillingness to be conquered?

Permanent Volta is not only a meditation on poetry. It is in its meditations on queerness, on body, and on the very throughline of emotionality—a manifestation of the collection’s namesake. As a concept, “permanent volta” implies a perpetual moment of shifting, suspended in time. In a sonnet, this occurs when the tone changes—when the lover leaves, when morning comes, when the plate falls from the hand and shatters. In Stockton’s collection, as in the title, Permanent Volta is the very way of writing. 

This is perhaps one of the many blessings of Stockton’s words: the insistence on poetry as a place for recreation. They write, “is my boundary exquisite to you? / is it / knowable? / isn’t this having?” And, “that’s a metaphor for my anguish. / Can you see my head against the window? / I’ve never believed in the forever of anything / except the wretched present.” The very nature of this insistence is in and of itself a queer thing. Even when we sit still, we are scrutinized.

What could be more clever than conflating the form and stuff of poems with the form and stuff of eternal volta? In Stockton’s words, “I’m ending this poem now, yes it’s over / a hungry ghost, / nothing has changed.”

Permanent Volta
By Rosie Stockton
Nightboat Books
Paperback, 9781643620756, 120 pages 
May 2021
July Westhale photo

About: July Westhale

July Westhale is the award-winning author of Via Negativa,Trailer Trash (selected for the 2016 Kore Press Book Prize), The Cavalcade, and Occasionally Accurate Science. Her most recent poetry can be found in The National Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Rappahannock Review, Tupelo Quarterly, RHINO, Lunch Ticket, and Quarterly West. Her essays have been nominated for Best American Essays and have appeared in McSweeney’sAutostraddle, and The Huffington Post. She is the 2018 University of Arizona Poetry Center Fellow. www.julywesthale.com

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