The Wrecking Light

Robin Robertson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $13.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-330-51548-1
Robertson's fourth collection is astonishing in its eclecticism; the poems touch on family, folklore, mythology, religion, travel, sex, shame, love, violence—and nature. The book is divided into three sections—"Silvered Water," "Broken Water," and "Unspoken Water"—whose titles reflect Robertson's obsession with the sea and humankind's relationship with the natural world. In "Signs on a White Field," the narrator "walk[s] out onto the lake./ A living lens of ice... breathing, readjusting its weight and light." In "Law of the Island," nature is no longer restorative but an instrument of torture: "Over his mouth and eyes/ they tied two live mackerel... and pushed him/ out from the rocks." A woman bears four sons in "At Roane Head," "web-footed... more/ fish than human" whom her husband eventually murders, "relaxing them/ one after another/ with a small knife." But it is "The Plague Year" that poses the question at the heart of this collection: "What is there left/ to trust but this green world and its god,/ always returning to life?" (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2011
Release date: 02/01/2010
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