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Indigo Moor’s THROUGH THE STONECUTTER’S WINDOW (Northwestern University Press/Cave Canem Prize) is hewn with a sculptor’s hand–gorgeous, chiseled lines that evoke scars crisscrossing the body “like soldiers/who died where/ they fell.” Art here is a means of redemption for the prodigal, and every “tight twist to kudzu” feels like a return home–with all the difficulties that entails.

Elizabeth J. Colen’s WAITING UP FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Jaded Ibis Press) is subtitled “conspiracies.” The poems conspire with longstanding theories of faked lunar landings, invasions by extraterrestrials, and who was behind the London Tube bombings, the death of Princess Diana, and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Colen is not timid about addressing the perversities of American culture head-on. “What have we learned? Disaster will strike,” she writes; and later, in “American Fear,” “this is what we wanted:/ the TV’s on; we’re in it.” The subjects are dark, generating perhaps more discomfort than comfort, but Colen reminds us that the human heart is still quite functional: “the world could end tonight./ That’s why I’m eating this piece of cake.”

If contemporary life seems at times troubling, Carrie Oeding’s OUR LIST OF SOLUTIONS (42 Miles Press) offers solace against the bright ennui of suburbs. “They have traded fortunes, exchanged reason to live,/ sworn oaths never to leave/ without first dying or chaining the dog outside,/ and found each other.” Oeding gets beneath the surface niceties of backyards and barbecues, serving at times as a gracious if sardonic host: “She grins and says,Soon one will come around/ for you, like my teeth rounding this apple.

Another charming host is Christopher DeWeese whose debut collection THE BLACK FOREST (Octopus Books) takes us on a Wordsworthian journey through state parks and a thousand landscapes of the imagination. “You can hear brambles/ scratching thin scars/ against the wind. DeWeese’s lines are short and playful, capricious without being cavalier.  “The longer I’m on this regimen,/ the more it seems like/ the goal isn’t so much/ to be remembered/ as to be the one remembering.”

Speaking of remembering… “I thought I wouldn’t know what to tell you about grieving,” Collier Nogues writes in ON THE OTHER SIDE, BLUE (Four Way Books), but she in fact knows too well about loss. In “In My Father’s Father’s Airstream Trailer,” Nogues lays out her family’s pedigree of condolence: “I have a tourist’s love of family, of being near the more articulately faithful.// My mother was grammarian, librarian, detention master, expert teacher of remedial fiction./ My living uncles are all pastors.” One could not ask for a more compassionate elegy. “How I Take Care of Her Now” is more than “help with what// her hands won’t do.” “Fixing her dream is how I am helping.”

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Published Aug 29, 2012 - Comments Off

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