In 1946, the artist Yves Kline divided the world between himself and two other artists. The three would concentrate their artistic energies on their assigned spaces: earth, air, and sky. Kline got the sky, the void that would long characterize his work. In this ethereal, unnameable space, Jay Michaelson begins his book, Another Word for Sky, an erudite collection of poems that juxtapose such complex subjects as time, desire, religion, sexuality, and loneliness. These themes are invoked in ways and combinations that reveal truths about the world and what it means to be human.
Michaelson explores ideas which language cannot possibly explain; perhaps that is the point. In this place of impossibility, Michaelson contemplates such things as: Purim 5756â€”a terrible bombing in Jerusalem; the Antisemitism of Dante Alighieri; longing for a man in his, “holy nakedness” during a ritual bath; love and faith though the metaphorical coupling of Abraham and Isaac; and the eternal tensions of the seasons, time, and love. Throughout the book, the intangible, the unknowable are paramount to human experience.
Michaelson’s words render something far more interesting than an answer to any particular question. He inspires awe, not just for his language and mix of ideas, but also for his ability to always be “moving towards a place whose borders are not drawn,” a place or a feeling that is “not of the heavensâ€“ just a place that’s another word for sky.” Highly recommended.
Reviewed by David S. Vess
Visiting IMLS Portal Librarian & Assistant Professor of Library Administration
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign