Mendeleev’s Mandala


Special To The Japan Times


“Mendeleev’s Mandala” is the most recent collection of poetry from Kansai-based writer Jessica Goodfellow.

Mendeleev’s Mandala, by Jessica Goodfellow
100 pages.
Mayapple Press, Poetry.

Each poem encompasses more than a world in a grain of sand; there is a universe on every page of this slim tome. Goodfellow invokes everything from binary theorems to ancient literature, and most of the poems transcend a sense of physical space and are not specifically tied to Japan. A running theme of displacement and reconsidering boundaries is the only commonality within these widely varied poems.

Goodfellow opens with “The Problem with Pilgrims” and ends with “6.015Random N6umber Tab8le” stopping off at all points in-between and playing deft games with language along the way.

In “Wilbur Wright Consults a Fortune Teller,” she adopts the persona of a sage, and the way she plays with internal rhyme and double meaning resounds in her advice: “You who confuse / departure with arrival rival only swallows / and eagles — creatures wound around hollow / skeletons.”

A series of prose poems about a girl whose favorite color is eigengrau reads like a metaphysical coming-of-age story, and her tragic “If — then, Iphigenia” will please both logic and literature lovers alike. “The Function of a Comma is to Separate” elucidates the boundaries of grammar alongside the infinities of love, and the title poem, “Mendeleev’s Mandala” sears with wisdom: ” A mind this aligned must be / ransomed by entropy eventually: every fact / (ory) is finally equal parts glass, equal parts / fire …”

I only read half-way through this universe before I stopped to order three more copies from Mayapple Press for friends. It is that kind of book, inspiring a cosmic infinitude of admiration.