I Mean (Paperback)
I came to I MEAN a few years ago and I still find myself thinking about this book-length poem coupled with essays. For me the project is a presentation of thought. the poetry of I MEAN is the free association of internal dialogue and The essays representative of formalized ideas. I think it's fair to say she means to embody their conglomerate qualities.— From Cody M. Staff Picks
In this stunning collection of poetry and lyric essay, Kate Colby ruminates iteratively, almost recursively over questions of scale and knowability: “The scale of language is human, and humans do not exist on a comprehensive scale.” The title poem uses a series of “I mean” statements (“I mean it’s major // I mean in motion // I mean pictures”) in a performance of clarification, but the accumulation of contradictory meanings (“self-supplanting palimpsests”) disrupts the text’s ability to mean anything stable; standalone attempts at meaning become, en masse, a conceptual inquiry into semantics. Colby grasps again and again at the ineffable or rather the almost-effable—she does not want to capture X so much as to convey X through the grasping itself, to circumscribe what can’t be expressed. At times, she achieves this so spectacularly—in “moments of euphoric clarity”—it makes me want to cry.
Like Scheherazade pulling beginnings out of the middles of stories to save her own life, I Mean denies its readers endings. Instead, its equations, erupting into multiple registers and digressions, which it constantly longs to contain and constantly fails to contain, give us opportunities: to argue with our own language, trace our own deferrals, and wonder, if a definitive ending or answer were to arrive, what we would do with it. Constant qualifications impede the “then” of I Mean's “if's”, and never solving them helps the reader learn to listen and the speaker survive, by any means necessary.
—DARCIE DENNINGAN & KATE SCHAPIRA
Using its title anaphoristically and clocking in at nearly 70 pages, the title poem is a tight, nimble, and wide-ranging work that manages to, in the author's words, "pile words up/ and wrap the referents around them" in a remarkably fun and conceptually virtuosic way. The essays also display an erudition that can be both heady and playful… With verve and purpose, Colby plays trick after alluring trick to write herself in and out of meaning.