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This review is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Cover of No Matter
Evan JonesVisionary
Jana Prikryl, No Matter (Tim Duggan Books) $15
In Jana Prikryl’s poems – two healthy books of them now – there are very few questions. Announcements and pronouncements are delivered by a puckish, unemotional intelligence, a voice from the void, factual and often inconvenient. Her second collection, No Matter, is an expansive book, formally various and skillful. Her themes are the tragedy of our times: immigration, refuge, loss and change. It is poetry that seems practically stolen from the headlines. Twenty-four poems here share titles: ‘Waves’ (six), ‘Anonymous’ (seven), ‘Friend’ (five) and ‘Sibyl’ (six). This quartet is Prikryl’s coat of arms, her shield, crest, supporters and motto. The repetitions direct our reading of the book, as the long-term friendships described break down, as an anonymous body found in the ocean is analysed for details. One ‘Sibyl’ begins:
The officers wear plain clothes for weeks
then unannounced for months will dress in uniform.

I assume this is intended to keep me in
suspense as to the nature of
the structure of authority among them

The language is officious. The lines are taut, because the breaks are unexpected in insignificant places, so that the endwords have little weight. The sentence is pulled until it stops, ending by reinforcing, ‘Suspense: / I’ve learned to let it hold me like a refuge.’ The Sibyl seems more like Cassandra, the buzzwords of the internet era turned against her. In our age of photorecognition software, another ‘Sibyl’ ends:
If they also accept resemblance
as a phenomenon, you’ll not
be interned ...

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