Striven, The Bright Treatise
Striven, The Bright Treatise
In his cunningly evolving repetitions, in his provocative use of constraints, and in his adaptations of great works (from Dante’s to David Bowie’s), Pethybridge’s Striven, The Bright Treatise exemplifies every element of Theodor Adorno’s assertion that the unresolved antagonisms of reality reappear in art in the guise of immanent problems of artistic form. Pethybridge reveals a complex of eroding societal values and human failings as he navigates the impossibility of coming to terms with his brother’s suicide. But, even as he reveals, he uses his formal range to query the vanity of trusting any lyric as a device capable of conveying the enormity of revelation that suicide engenders. Each formal design strives to bring to light more of the irresolvable elements that constitute this crisis of loss, though the poems are, in fact, testament to the possibility of shedding the brightest light on the motivations activating the agency of such striving. It is not a book bent upon understanding, and certainly not condoning, the choice of suicide—though Pethybridge unearths many of the societal and personal antecedents of such a choice. Rather it is a text that formally explores every interstice of the zone between the irretrievable past and ongoing present, which the grammatical form of the word “striven” suggests (past participle, used in the perfect tenses). This is a poetry that helps us to perceive that interminable bridge between past and present in all of its terrible normalcy, a bridge that carries us to the core of our human condition.
Sleeplessness and boundless sleep. These two poles constrain Jeffrey Pethybridge's Striven, The Bright Treatise. Rather, these are two obvious limits within which the book is made. Pethybridge is a formalist of the best sort, wracked into song by relentless reconsideration of the impossible situation any limit presents in itself: stretched between his bonds and singing in "middle living." This study in fraternal grief is also an anatomy of the process whereby we bear directly into pain, not that we "lose the name of action," as Hamlet would have it, but as the only way to act and effectively to live out "the haul of days."
Jeffrey Pethybridge describes Striven, The Bright Treatise as a “book of poems written against my brother’s suicide” with a telling preposition that expresses both opposition and relation. In a work that is equal parts elegy and inquiry, Pethybridge seeks an understanding of this tragedy in Dante, in scripture, in the experiments of Stein, in a twenty-thousand song playlist, in “the angel of the police report.” The result is a work as monumental as the Golden Gate bridge itself, a collection that does more than traverse the gap between the known and the unfathomable, but makes evident the ragged distance between survival and understanding.