where bells begin
where bells begin
RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 1, 2019
Declaration provides solace of structure for o, the book’s enigmatic but adamant speaker who navigates the seams of reality and dream in Tessa Micaela’s where bells begin. In a landscape where “the mist rises from the chemicals bubbling on the surface,” meaning emerges from conditions and point of view. Tense in its strain against the impossibility of building a world from props or propositions alone, this collection enriches a sterile reality with mystic longing. o embodies the lyric gesture, at once feral and epiphanic, while clinging to tactility and community—moving towards a we. These poems deny chronology, completion, or sure footing; the reader must continually recalibrate their understanding of o’s circumstances even as o insists on o’s own vulnerability, fear, invisibility, and becoming-ness. The conviction to observe, record, and deconstruct the abstractions of an over-policed, over-graphed world is not only o’s ars-poetica, but an ethical imperative for readers seeking to re-sensitize the soul.
Tessa Micaela is the author of there are boxes and there is wanting (Trembling Pillow Press, 2016), and the chapbook Crude Matter (ypolita press, 2016) and co-edits HOLD: a journal. Currently living and working in central Vermont, Tessa practices herbal medicine, and is a midwife-in-training.
Lyrical yet economic, conceptual without fatigue, Tessa Micaela’s where bells begin evokes familiar intimacies rendered anew by o, an almost-protagonist who drifts about a city, landscapes, fragments. Modernist traces breathe through Micaela’s lines: the social bestiary of Kafka, the patience of Lispector. Comparisons like these risk pushing where bells begin afield from its particular and immediate proximity to this world though; a gap of an l, m, n stands between Josef K and o. In the face of silent authority, o persists, waits, believes. o’s belief, like ours, in arrival or completion, does not betray the pleasure of waiting. And what is the weight of the lyric if not a learning to stay in waiting? Perhaps—or, perhaps, “we aren’t meant to imagine ourselves so large.” Schlegel once wrote of Kant’s failure to include “the almost” in his categories. where bells begin, I would like to think, humbly, attests to this—a city almost the world, o who is almost a we. where bells begin has taken much to heart; we may yet take it to ours.
“There are facts that we cannot entertain the feeling of,” Tessa Micaela writes in their arresting second book, where bells begin. The poems in this collection are long, rhythmic, and tender weavings that attempt to entertain these feelings, to push against the facts that impact our bodies and lives and everyday: capitalism, systems of power, time, failure. Micaela is simultaneously gentle and relentless, their writing hypnotic and fierce, as we are urged to notice the ways in which we are connected, and listen for the bells together.
—Cheena Marie Lo
The central figure of Tessa Micaela’s where bells begin, o, has “the hardest time holding it all together” and struggles—as we all do—to picture the “power and structures and systems” that hold such an outsized influence over the city and relationships o lives within. o’s dogged and tender efforts allow readers to repeatedly “encounter our own hesitance” and—given that “we too, might have hands or have legs”—to use that space of overlap to resonate with o’s experiences of vibration and numbness, of desire and its absence, of the concurrent needs for stillness and swift motion, of the horrible mechanical banality of direct deposit paychecks and the terror of their end. Like o, we too are people who want things to hold onto, but also find it “soothing to go missing instead.” Sometimes, o tells us, we have to “play at breathing” until we can do it of our own accord. Can o help us in that journey? I believe that o will.