The effect gravity and memory have on language is the relationship which propels Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s Solar Maximum. The poetry drips in the twilight of loss, a decimating emotional scourge that echoes in the fringes of language and physics. Lee’s words are a type of prose fusion that spans both the macroscopic and microscopic, a lyrical orbit that describes the planes of a fiery apocalypse. The sun is dying, undergoing a metamorphosis that impacts the social collective that ties us together through photons:
“My skin crawls at odd hours of the day, a residual effect of my recent radiation therapies, how they inadvertently synced me to coronal flares… The brightest moments of the day rarely correlate to a discharge. Gray sky or blackness, a foggy haze aswirl between stars and nothing halts. Some moments tear my teeth.”
The apocalypse feels very personal, emotions drifting on the light waves of a cataclysm. I have to admit, not being a poet, when I read poetry collections, I focus on what the words evoke in me and less on the technical aspects. It’s literally like a star system of feeling in revolution around my thoughts, each poem acting as a planet pulling on my attention. Some slip by unaware, barely registering. Others pound me like asteroids forcing craters in my mental eco-system. Sueyeun Juliette drowns my memories in sunlight. The collection is a unique type of rapture, finding the parallels between a terminal sun and the unrelenting pressure of imminent doom:
Cold. The blistering of it. A sanitary isolation, this diffusion of
kinetic intentions into static, liquid sand. Deeper midnight,
negative phosphor darkness. The primary principle requires my
concentration, to attend to this liquid summons now, all things
gathering to a point, to seep. Heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, all these
and more divulge themselves with an igneous notation. And
pouring through them, from what else–the dark streams of
sunlight’s interior. The breaking of, such sorrows.
The dedication to Stanislaw Lem is noteworthy in that Solar Maximum reminded me, thematically at least, of Solaris. The alienness of the planet is analogous to the destruction of the sun, and both evoke oceans of isolation that make each sentiment poignant. I found myself lost in contemplation, wandering through Lee’s memories, her imagery, ablaze with so much meaning. It’s both tactile and visual, the heat as scorching as it is hot to sense:
To the small star inside, we set up a makeshift rotation that gives us each a momentary relief.
Watching is a rudimentary course of action, and we detail each thought as it appears. This is a
gentle activity, despite the aggressiveness of the surround. A thought is the beginning of an
opening, and we work diligently to trace its aperture, the outline of its extent. When he tells us he
simply doesn’t know and is unable to track any origins, we recognize the rotation has failed. The
small star inside is an obvious integer, but to this he has become blind.
Who knew disaster could be so wondrous and breathtaking?