In Trace of One,real geographies merge with spiritual ones, just as details of the speaker’s physical and emotional worlds intertwine with the transcendent realms of science, religion, and myth. Joanna Goodman’s poems share a sense of spatial and temporal displacement—they are love poems to a place, whether it be a field, a room, or a paradise—they celebrate their subjects, but they are also poems of grief and solitude. The poems resonate with ethereal echoes paradoxically emitted by an increasingly demystified world in which mechanical explanations for the workings of the human mind and body bump up against the mystery and obliqueness of the soul.
A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and winner of the Discovery/The Nation prize, Goodman teaches at CUNY's Baruch College, and here registers impressions on "Silicon retina, artificial cochlea, tongue:/ ...learning how best to transcribe spirit/ by tracking chemical release." In nearly 40 page-or-so lyrics divided into two numbered sections, Goodman's speaker finds the title trace beneath a "Beech Tree in March," in "Benares" and "In an Excessive Corridor," where "The story is always one of axing/ your way out only to end/ more deeply interiored ."