The sestina is a form in which words repeat regularly, intricately, appearing and reappearing in new contexts with new meanings. Sam Lohmann’s Unless As Stone Is emerged from a few years of living with Dante’s sestina, “Al poco giorno e al gran cerchio d’ombra.” He allowed the text to appear in its own new — if irregularly scheduled — contexts. New translations, new scenery, new meanings; new phrases entered the poem (from García Lorca, from Sappho, from strangers and from loved ones) and found their own patterns. What resulted is a serial poem in seven movements, incorporating several strategies of reincorporation. “Quandunque i colli fanno più nera ombra” — “All our oddity operates / on changing verity.”
Buffalo, NY + Toronto, ON: eth press, 2014. 40 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0-615-98392-9. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0058.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $18.00 in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.
The only way out of Dante is to drill straight through. Whether his Comedy, his sonnets to Beatrice or in Sam’s case resetting the ribcage of this exquisite sestina. Lohmann allows a designer Italian grass stain to bleed up from in between purely engraved snatches of song. A recurring dislocation that invariably uncovers several chambers bursting with light. ‘Eros who locks us as in amber / leers from shadows where he is’.
~ Cedar Sigo
Sam Lohmann’s rift on Dante’s sestina forms an archipelago of inducements to renew love and re-experience language.
~ Standard Schaefer