The Soft Path
University of Akron Press
The Soft Path, which takes its title from a 1970s term promoting an alternative energy future, appraises the “unreconciled / losses” of a world remade in the relentless interests of capital, a world “revelatory in its / diminishment.” Written where landscape bleeds into soundscape, where ecopoetics collides with technopoetics, this book speaks from the fragmented space of machine learning to “memory’s residue,” in a voice that recalls American predecessors Oppen, Niedecker, and Ammons. The Soft Path continues Harmon’s exploration of both the serial poem and the long poem, from the small-but-systemic breakdowns of “Cascading Failures” to the epic commuting roadsong of the nearly 1500-line “Horizontal Dropouts.” These poems offer field notes on sites ranging from interstate off-ramps to “hi-vis ribbons tied to / twig tips in the woods”; they register tenuousness and tenacity, from an era when “everything [is] / post-peak.” The Soft Path reasserts Lydia Davis’s judgement that “Harmon reaches deep into the resources of our rich English, renewing the language and creating from it a physical and emotional world completely his own.”
Joshua Harmon is the author of the poetry collections The Soft Path, Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie, and Scape, as well as the essay collection/memoir The Annotated Mixtape, the novel Quinnehtukqut, and the short fiction collection History of Cold Seasons. He lives in western Massachusetts.