“One Truly Human Act” —Sikkema & Simple Wants
Despite a surface flash, a linguistic rupture that permeates some of the poems (or poetic utterances) that make up CODE OVER CODE, Sikkema's work is a profoundly human one, a searching utterance.
The book begins simply enough, with the controlling consciousness, the center of the vortex, proclaiming, “I wanted everything with you to be nicely round in a square of berry patch,/dirt and sky.” So much of what this book, finally, generates for the reader is initiated here, a revving that spans the length of the collection. Here is urge towards coupled with wariness of; there is a cynicism here that wants the “round” to exist in the “square,” that wants the impossibility of non-conformity within conformity & is still naïve enough to think that, if it can be achieved, there will be a nicety to it all. The book, then, the rest of the poems, are notes from the war, the speaker’s realization that this cannot be—implied syntactically already: I wanted…
If the world view of CODE OVER CODE is “romantic,” if it can be said to aspire to “organic unity,” the project of CODE OVER CODE, what the poems accomplish, can be said to reveal to us an interrogation of that Romantic sensibility & the fact that we live in a world that is openly antagonistic to it. Such simple & lovely & intimate whispers such as “Here is where I am looking at you/in me” have no place in the new mechanisms of poetic language, which use the gears of irony & fear & distrust to spin our selves further & further from real human connections.
Sikkema’s speaker asks “Is there one truly human act left?” The direct answer seems to be no, or at least that it is decidedly not the kind of act we want to be remembered for. Pure animal functioning does not make a human & I stand with Sikkema, chagrined & angry, baffled that we live in an age where poetry that enacts the purer functions of emotion (including, yes, love) is viewed suspiciously.
--Review by . Nate Pritts