Kasischke's fourth and fifth collections return to accustomed themes—frustrated domesticity, nostalgia, motherhood, marriage—leaping from personal anecdote to fairy tale to biblical or Greco-Roman myth with astonishing speed and no small dose of melodrama. At times reminiscent of Sexton, but without the bravura, Kasischke's women are often ghostly, haunted and haunting: "That girl over there, she's/ pale—an exhalation—a girl/ you pass through like Nebraska/ on a white-washed day." The poems often glide on wry asides ("Who can tell the difference between the state/ of grace and the state of inebriation?") or alight on prosey detail: "Once, lying naked/ beside my husband in a sweaty/ bed, an awful/ moth flew through the window/ and landed on my breast." As with Kasischke's strongest collection, Fire & Flower, these two books reveal a troubled relationship between a speaker and her body: a thwarted sexuality, an obsession with food and alcohol, a longing for physical transformation. Myth and magic (including full-blown Ovidian metamorphosis) can sometimes rescue a poem from self-pity, but can also catapult it toward the ridiculous, as when a dead bird carries a "message" in a poem about trying to quit smoking, or when a friend's drunken mother is remembered as having "poled/ us to morning on a ferry, dark/ and slow against the current, ghost-/ white and floating/ up the Nile all night...." While the poems of Dance succeed more often, the two collections are quite similar in tone, subject matter and associative structure. (June)
Forecast:Kasischke teaches at Western Michigan University and has published three novels, mostly recently The Life Before Her Eyes from Harcourt. Warm reviews of the novel have stressed Kasischke's poetic language and explicitly mentioned her poetry; shelving these collections next to it should boost sales significantly.