Barbara Tomash

from PRE-


by nuclear bombardment to pass down to others
shorthand notes / their amplitude / but diffusing it as in hearing aids
as in very small radios / the supposed passing of the soul

operating outside of the self to make permeate / hence spiritual
intuition / as a kind of theodolite / an emigrant passing through the field
of a telescope or through a mouthpiece

to transmit by the characters of another alphabet or by automatic
relay / a passing modulation / originally a minute electronic device / a
temporary lodger / and by extension the soul

leaping from its horizontal transverse axis
into a remote key


originally without death / as to change from one bus, streetcar etc. to another
a startling change / distinguished from rotation / said of the soul across the disk
of the sun / said of currents on the other side of the sea / to pass into another body
from the engine to the wheels / trans, over, across + spirare, to breathe / flowing
across through a reproduction of / window glass / the pores of the skin /
the surface of leaves / so fine in texture


as a seedling
when light shines through it
the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience
to pierce with something pointed
the accidents of bread and wine
repressed impulses
crossing from side to side
as a convict sentenced to transportation
the speed of sound in air


as well as : persons subjected to depriving : to utter sharply :
that is true : to wear off the skin : scathingly :


to begin (a tone) : having the same curvature in all directions : to shorten (a word) : to overlap the chamfered edges of a neighboring vibrating body : in pity or compassion : meaning each whorl of leaves : to receive together with large fragrant clusters : white, pink, red, purplish or bluish flowers : in this dictionary : a fold of stratified rock

The poems in PRE- spin out from dictionary definitions for words beginning with particular English prefixes. All the language is found — but fractured and juxtaposed with a free-hand, freewheeling approach. I am working instinctually and with a method that is perhaps more common in the visual arts. I lay out the materials I have gathered — in this case words and phrases from the dictionary — and examine them disassociated from their source — then, in a process of trial and error, I begin creating an assemblage out of them. The assemblage is the poem.
Barbara Tomash is the author of three books of poetry, Arboreal (Apogee 2014), Flying in Water, which won the 2005 Winnow First Poetry Award, and The Secret of White (Spuyten Duyvil 2009). Her manuscript PRE- was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from Black Radish Press (2018). Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, New American Writing, VOLT, Bateau Press, Verse, Jacket, OmniVerse, ZYZZYVA, Third Coast, Witness and numerous other journals. She lives in Berkeley, California and teaches in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.