Newcomer Can’t Swim, Renee Gladman. Kelsey St. Press, 2007.
Written as seven loosely connected pieces, Renee Gladman’s Newcomer Can’t Swim mixes poetry with prose to recreate life for the twenty-first century flaneur in urban America, where, amid a confusion of aims, identities, and miscommunication devices, being attuned to different frequencies also means being lost. In this contemporary world of signs that crisscross a global culture, how can one maintain a firm existence and make human connections? Gladman posits a fluid self and parallel existence: “The / body moves away from living, from the flesh and bone of life, / and becomes regions. I take on / water. I look outward.” In languages of elegy and splintered consciousness, Newcomer holds all frequencies together, keeping the contradiction of a life that animates the “I” of this book at the same time that it goes on without her.