London Grip Poetry Review – Claudine Nash

Poetry review – BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LOSS IN THE MULTIVERSE: Charles Rammelkamp studies Claudine Nash‘s  sympathetic and light-touch guide to coping with bereavement

Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse
Claudine Nash
Blue Light Press, 2021
ISBN: 978-1421836690
72 pages    $15.95

It’s clear from the very title of Claudine Nash’s Blue Light Press Book Award-winning collection that she has a subtle sense of humor. The title, of course, plays on Douglas Adams’ whimsical comedy science fiction classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But loss is also at the center of this collection, and loss is never funny. It’s the attitude that counts, the perspective! While not necessarily a “how-to / self-help” book, Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse weaves emotions throughout a fragmented reality that combines “possible” and “real” in a narrative of wish-fulfillment, fully acknowledging longing but never dwelling in self-pity. Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse is, indeed, a sensitive love song.

Each of the thirty-two poems in this book is located in a different numbered universe – one of them, “Unlike Here, Universe 12,146,091,” even requiring up into eight digits! The collection begins in #415. “Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse, Universe 415” orients us to the situation:

	I accept this challenge
	of surrendering
	all of you, every
	notion of us
	that could exist
	in some other time
       or space…  

While the “story” remains abstract, almost theoretical, the sensuality is always immediate, visceral, as in “Pretend that You are Talking Universe 3,082,018”:

	You can
	bring your
	lips near
	and let the


	into my

Nash writes in clear, short lines, often just a word or two long. The effect is like slipping a needle into the reader’s eye, heart, putting such emphasis on individual words. (Has “into my” ever been more erotic?) The penultimate poem of the first of the four parts into which these poems are divided, “Worse Off Universe 12,147,046,” includes these lines that almost make the longing manifest, a pulsing throb:

	I know
	there are worse things
	in the world than wanting you
	this way….

And the final poem in the first section? Reading it, we “get” the sly humor that underlies Nash’s tone throughout, undercutting any hint of self-absorbed misery. The images are still so very sensuous, but the suggestion of space-fantasy aliens is vivid and amusing.

	When we lie down
	in what looks like grass
	you braid my
	hair or tentacles,

	I run my lips
	along your forehead,
	the arcs of each
	of your six

The short second part of Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse is called “Magnolias,” containing just four poems, “Magnolias Universe 1,071,” “Magnolias Universe 1,072,” “Magnolias Universe 1,073,” and “Magnolias Universe 1,074.” Nash uses the magnolia – a landscape of magnolias – as a potent symbol of love. “Magnolias Universe 1,072” spells it out:

	I look at you
	and at once

	all the gaps
	and restless
	spaces in me
	settle into this

	I drift home
	in a blanket
	of magnolias

The final two sections of the book are rooted in memory. “Entanglement” is the title of the third part, including two poems with that title, “Entanglement Universe 191,177” and “Entanglement Universe 191,178.” In the prose poem called “Gut Instinct” Nash writes:

Perhaps an entangled particle settles onto the tip of your finger and you 
touch a trace of a moment you’ve seen somewhere else or you converse 
with a stranger in a tea shop and you know at once you’ve swapped blends 
with a kindred spirit. Imagine if you perceived that same insistent murmur 
the day I weighed the space between your arms and my torso swore “this,
 this is where I fit.

The final section, “A Stunning Matter,” begins with the poem, “The Making of Memory Universe 101,177,” and already the situation starts to feel “retrospective,” but then, since we’re always dealing with parallel universes here, in which time is not necessarily continuous, each moment discrete, disconnected, is anything really in the rearview? But still, it all feels “settled” now, in some way.

Nash’s sense of humor comes out again in “How I Lost All Interest in Telekinesis Universe 2,013,051.” The poem ends:

		I’m starting to think this

	telekinetic, parapsychological
	phenomenon is a

 		pseudoscientific myth,

	because if I had any real
	remote mental influence,

		with all my wishing and wanting

	and directed conscious intent,
	you should have popped in

		aeons ago.

“How Not to Flirt in the Multiverse Universe 771,199,” which follows, continues to bring a smile. This poem ends:

	all I really

	want from
	you is “yes”
	or “now” or

	just a plain
	old “infinite”

	will more
	than likely

Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse is at once tender and speculative, not actually “heartbreaking,” even as it deals with a broken heart; the reader is more sympathetic than pitying, for sure, charmed by Nash’s humor. Face it, when it comes to loss, we’re all rank beginners.