A Map Predetermined and Chance

National Poetry Series
Laura Wetherington
publisher: Fence Books
pub date: 11/15/2011
paperback isbn: 978-1-934200-49-0
paperback: $15.95

A debut collection of unusual surefootedness and force. These are sexy, wise poems about desire, selfness, music, and time.

A Map Predetermined and Chance rises from several sources (the languages of sexuality, descriptions of D-Day, discerning looks at the stage business of  Voyage d’ Hiver, others) but a reader would do well to take the book’s initial statement—’there is no narrator, no barrier’—seriously; and ought to take the next one even more seriously for its being put out in Q&A form and referencing the function of the material—here, the author (observing that the sentence at hand ‘does not rhyme’) asks, ‘What does it do?’ And answers in the next sentence—’It reads like a primer; my primer / is a desire: see my desire get / fingered.’ Identified, pressed, touched ‘repeatedly or restlessly,’ pleasured, hankered after, pointed at with the finger. In this book Laura Wetherington means everything, all of everything. ‘The map is not the territory,’ said Alfred Korzybski. Fair enough, but  A Map Predetermined and Chance does yet other kinds of work: it goes fearlessly to both refer to and build other structures—and places—of knowledge than the territory that salesmen are obligated to know. Perhaps Wetherington’s map is the territory. ‘All I want is universe,’ she winks. Music is in it—she writes, ‘beehive she bop mishap / the syllables go la / la da dee / go long.’ Time is in it, too—certain days, annotations, a deceptively endless pastoral present. ‘Time was and time wasn’t,’ she writes; and then, ‘Time wasn’t. That’s what it was.’  It will git you—as Ralph Ellison noted— an’ it won’t.

Every map tells a story? Maybe the trouble with that idea is the implicit storyteller, the figure of barrier, a circumstance or principle of exclusion. (A salesman?) A Map Predetermined and Chance has its sources but it is not the pitch or story of desire; rather, the book fingers the grains of some places where such a thing as desire (its wants and wouldbe’s, its immemorials) might have stopped by or found (or taken) momentary form—you, that, the clapping gyre of me; or ‘a memory expansive / as my own,’ the pirated language of —’s escape, schoolyard banter of the technology that can compress a cremated body into a diamond. ‘This this,’ Laura Wetherington says. Her book is a dangling down atlas—sly, elusive and allusive, engaged, multiple.  This, this. Like time, it fails to conclude.”
C. S. Giscombe,  National Poetry Series judge

“In an exuberant space between body and language, war and history, Wetherington’s poems hang fire before spitting it, resisting the maps that would tether one’s organs and orgasms to coded channels and gendered values. Here is a prosody at once porous and tightly woven, whose consequential turns of phrase anticipate radical turns of mind, a whole ethos of decision and deliberation. These poems, full of humor and seriousness, are alive with desire, like a sentence that exceeds its structure. While challenging violent logics of property (“to have”) and necessity (“to have to”), A Map Predetermined and Chance will never abolish sense.” –Rob Halpern

“In A Map Predetermined and Chance, Laura Wetherington ushers in Laura Riding’s piercing content evacuations to make us aware of the body that never leaves us. A host not only to that ghostly presence, these poems lead the charge with a desiring, aggressive femininity, middle school girls trailing after, yelling real loud: PENIS. This book plays hilarious and devastating linguistic pranks by turning “waves” into “whales” and spinning “skin” into the “universe in,” going laaaaa all the way home. Here, Wetherington hunts down form—songs, stories, and loose translations all make it into A Map— while form chases us through the forest. And as we go looking for a place to pitch our tent, to smooch someone cute near the fire, we realize we can’t say “yeast infection” in French, our crotch itches, and and it’s D-Day. “Today I write; I wait for the form around which I was formed,” Wetherington writes, alluding to the history that determines, which we’re forced to contend with, and the chaos and eros of chance that follow.” –Anna Vitale

“Laura Wetherington’s A Map Predetermined and Chance is like Stein meets the Vagina Monologues–or, a monologue of many singing vaginas.  Her “eye” is concerned with language, and all its clean & dirty & used & immigrant parts.  We see verbs and nouns writ in a truly feminine tongue–can we define this? 1) [her] vagina is an electrical engineer; 2) the work is probing: with the audacity of a young [she]man, it knows no barriers; 3) with a tendency to make and remake our perceptions of the world from below.” –Anya Cobler

You can order the book from Small Press Distribution, directly from Fence Books, on Amazon, or from your local bookstore.

Reviews & Press

Library Journal: Prepub Alert / Barbara Hoffert

Brooklyn Rail / Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

THEthe / Pia Aliperti

The Poetry Project Newsletter (December 2012/January 2013) / Sara Jane Stoner