Vanitas, Rough

Lisa Russ Spaar, Author
Lisa Russ Spaar. Persea (Norton, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-0-89255-420-1
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Spaar, known for unveiling erotic lyricism in the quotidian, has been likened to Dickinson and Hopkins, and in this fourth book, her linguistic mastery continues, conveying the rapture—and hilarity—that can occur in suburban stillness. Here, where the overheard shouts of co-eds conjure absurd humor against “the gasp/ of their fathers’ beer cans opening in porch shadows,” where “any held breath is wish for something/ to happen,” desire is existential. “What doesn’t love/ restraint?” these poems ask, while brimming with anticipation and urgency, and touched with wit, working to question the world’s rough beauty and transience: “Apricot pendulum lyre ticking// in the locust, blue fieldstones/ of the crumbling fence, old crush// on the world whose beauty I’ve always feared/ to see directly—will that leave me, too,// despite years that never brought me the weightless/ grace I thought I’d become for myself, or anyone?” Sequence still central to Spaar’s work, the familiar becomes holy in a new series of saint poems, named, St. Protagonist, St. Chardonnay, St. Brontë, St. Vogue. Informed by past masters and contemporary moments, Spaar’s work aims to uncover for us what of the world’s ecstatic lushness we might have missed: “Dear Reader,” Spaar writes, “one wonder/ speaks of another.” (Dec.)
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