The Shrine Whose Shape I Am: The Collected Poetry of Samuel Menashe
Edited by Bhisham Bherwani and Nicholas Birns
(Audubon Terrace Press, 2019, 387 pp., $25).
“The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream,” says Stevens, and I have understood his poem to be an oracle of the epicurean abundance in the nature of things, a revelry that rubs its shoulders with death. I hear a less epicurean but likewise oracular voice when Samuel Menashe writes,
There is no Jerusalem but this
Breathed in flesh by shameless love
Built high upon the tides of blood
I believe the Prophets
And like David I bless myself
With all my might
So Forth: Poems
(W.W. Norton & Co., 2020, 83 pp., $25.95).
I envy Rosanna Warren her capacity for retreat. So Forth, her newest book of poems, retreats in each of its five sections: to memory, to the self within the city, to history, to foreign cities, and finally to a mountain cabin where “waterfall / careers down among umbers and blanks of ice-filigreed rock.” At first, the leisure out of which these pieces spring seems almost mythic: whence comes this endless means to travel and withdraw, and the inner and outer peace that allows thinking to move from observation to art?
by Paisley Rekdal
(Copper Canyon Press, 2019, 96 pp., $16)
Paisley Rekdal’s Nightingale might be read as a kind of working out of personal poetics, using Ovid open-handedly as a template for exploring strange transformations. The nightingale represents, as it did for Keats and countless others, the poet’s need to make a song from a violent encounter, even if the need troubles the poet. The poems are long and allusive—a style not, admittedly, to everyone’s taste—but also personal and confrontational; I was reminded more than once of the genre-blending in Ann Carson’s “The Glass Essay.” As one might expect in a retooling of Ovid, sexuality and sexual experiences establish the major tensions: Rekdal’s pieces imagine scenarios not only in which sexuality changes, but also in which a speaker’s perception toward, or attitude about, or memory of an encounter—or assault—shifts.
We turn into an alley, nearing the end of our walk,
and I straggle, sapped, by a massing of lost vines.
Someone has left their garden, a sure, deliberate planting,
spilling into the gravel, bins, a parked car.
Incongruently, panged, I think of a white goal
unmet in an ancient track: mēta. I’ve stopped short;
rancor enriches my throat. That where parents are bowed down,
the elderly hard to their limits, cultivation could hang abandoned.
These grapes are for no one’s taste,
though I’m touching them with my hand,
whose flourishing doesn’t belong, already turning the spokes
of the stroller, my children chiding from their aimless bicycles ahead.
Permanent link to this post
(109 words, estimated 26 secs reading time)
Like the whoop of a student
tumbling from his dorm into January sun,
swaggering and young,…… spreads—
like the wide
scrawl on the concrete bridge:
I love Karin—…… …… (I love Nick!
look at those kids…… in their eloquent coats
aqua blue…… green as a jewel
shoving a boulder of grainy snow
through the rails of the bridge
crushing it…… …… SINK IT!…… …… no
it floats…… …… unstifled
those are my kids)
…… …… …… …… …… …… my cloud
sailing from my round sides
irrepressible omphalos…… …… overtakes everything:
Riverwalk, 37 Weeks Pregnant full post
(115 words, estimated 28 secs reading time)
They cross the threshold
of our humming house & we fold our wings, falling
drowsy as geese, nuptial
in the window’s evening flare. Your parents now:
at the couch, settling
the floor, shrugging their ghosts to the steaming tiles.
I could rise, fruit
in boxes mellowing the air behind. I could
be gone, not
sit, speaking, with the ones
you love, at our hearth,
brooding to dreams silent as the balm
of an apple, longevity
alighted, close, a roost, breathing, lying, at hand.
Permanent link to this post
(84 words, estimated 20 secs reading time)
Poems for Camilla
by Rachel Hadas
(Measure Press, 2018)
Poems for Camilla works from the initially startling assumption that an ancient war text can serve as a natural meeting point between a grandmother and granddaughter. Hadas, however, focuses on the timelessness of the text, rather than its martial aspects. The Aeneid becomes, in her lyric poems, not just the means by which she can share wisdom with a beloved young person, but also a living, literary world into which she can insert herself past her own life’s boundaries, there for her granddaughter to find.
The If Borderlands: Collected Poems
By Elise Partridge
(New York Review of Books, 272pp., $16.00)
Articulate as Rain
By Stephen Kampa
(Waywiser Press, 96pp., $14.25)
It’s been a long time since I’ve been as riveted by a poetry collection as I was by The If Borderlands. Elise Partridge’s work is mostly new to me, but it possesses such meticulous, formally attentive understatement, such a range of subject matter, and such philosophical curiosity and wisdom, that it is surely the equal, to my mind, of poetic thinkers like Clampitt, Bishop, and Schnackenberg.
Falling Ill: Last Poems
by C.K. Williams
(FSG, 2017, 64 pgs., $23)
Those looking for consolation in C.K. Williams’ final book (Falling Ill, FSG, 2017), written after an end-of-life diagnosis, won’t find much of it. But there is spare beauty, control, honesty, mitigated terror, and love. Especially love.
This house with the small backyard here it is I drowse. The wind strews
blossoms from the crabapple boughs; they catch in in the grass, in the vines,
like snow. In front, a tree, riotous and pink, fills
the narrow window I clap my eyes on. A garden,
alongside a street.
I am teaching nothing. When I wake,
the day lies before me as water to wash in. My children keep close to my body;
shade passes by. I have lost the sense of my century I am
a child myself I love my boundaries, dripping with green.
Why is my neighbor in exile here? A grasping that held me is gone.
Permanent link to this post
(113 words, estimated 27 secs reading time)