Synaptic

Synapticby Alison CalderPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Elena Bentley$19.95 ISBN 9780889778610 “[L]et me reverse your gaze, turn / the microscope upon the viewer.” It’s clear from the beginning of Alison Calder’s incredible third book of poetry, Synaptic, we are being asked “to think about the way we perceive and the ways in which we seek to know ourselves and others.” To find answers, Calder starts by exploring the field of neuroscience. “Connectomics,” the book’s first section, concerns itself primarily with the neuroscientific ways humans attempt to know themselves, or more importantly, the lengths to which humans will go to know themselves. Footnotes accompany each poem in this section, and the language is quite simple. Both the footnotes and straightforward diction allow the poems to be easily understood, despite the subject matter’s complexity. Aware of the large role animals play in our curiosity to glean self-awareness, Calder has written poems inspired by, among other things, the gene splicing of fireflies and mice, the genome sequencing of roundworms, and the discovering of algal protein for the use of optogenetics; however, she notes the curiosity is not reciprocal. An owl, for example, “knows itself / […] It sees you and doesn’t…