Spiral Bound is an outstanding literary debut from Doomtree's Dessa

photo by B Fresh Photography

The gulf between the spoken word and the written word can often prove impossible to bridge. Many have tried, most have drowned, and the literary seabed is strewn with bleached skeletons of the bold but butchered. 

But Dessa, the Doomtree collective's poet in residence, manages the crossing with remarkable expertise -- Spiral Bound, her debut chapbook of poetry and prose, is a dominantly dazzling literary debut. In this largely outstanding volume of ten, Dessa infuses even the most miniature of her works with perfect vascular systems. Her themes breathe, pump human blood, and sport her language like tailored linen suits, and the entire volume is proof that Dessa's gifts for the page are beyond dispute.

Many of Dessa's fans might expect a poetry volume, but Spiral Bound is predominantly a work of prose. It's a thankful decision-- the brief poems that function best as interludes which emphasize Dessa's pronounced talents for the unbroken line. Dessa is at her best when she travels light, maneuvering in compact prose works like "Alice Drowning," "The Greatest Remove," and "Sleeping On The Stairs," a triptych of internal alienations that open the volume. Unsurprisingly, her work is intensely personal. There's little room for bravado here, and Dessa executes her numerous self-portraits with a courageous eye. Neither maudlin nor saccharine, Spiral Bound addresses all of its themes at unerring eye level. The effect is often moving, and always immersive.

There are a couple slight issues with the text -- as evidenced by her interview with Gimme Noise, much of the work's power is derived from its immediacy, and several pieces were completed mere days before the work hit the press. Still, Dessa and the collective to which she belongs are consummate pros, and Spiral Bound would have benefited from a more thorough proofreading. Additionally, the longer works, "The Leviathan" and "Camera Obscura," don't amount to quite as much as the smaller pieces.

But those are minor complaints. Dessa is an artisan of the language, crafting her lines and ideas with a potter's gentleness. Once fired on the page, of course, her imagery and the force of her convictions are purest concrete. Through and through, Spiral Bound is etched in glass -- at once a liquid and a solid, and always perfectly transparent.  The volume bears the Doomtree seal, and an easily decoded "DTP 001" beneath it. Here's hoping Spiral Bound is just the first of many works to emerge from this fledgling press.