The Happiness Experiment

Lisa Fishman, Author
Lisa Fishman, Author Ahsahta Press $16 (92p) ISBN 978-0-916272-94-4
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Nothing in Fishman's laconic earlier books would have predicted the dreamy, impressive exuberance in this, her third: the poet depicts her rural surroundings, their precedents in classical pastoral, and her own, generously drift-prone imagination in these lyrical sequences, exploring attachments geographic, georgic, erotic and maternal. ""Darken the roses dried on the lamppost,"" one of a few poems called ""Calendar,"" instructs; ""thud thud in the weather/ all trembling kissed my mouth."" Fishman (Dear, Read) repeatedly invokes the Romantic radical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley as she seeks ideals, new beginnings, and pure sentiments in a sometimes frustrating Midwest: ""One winter the road stuck us all in our houses/ turning to horses or daughters or fish."" Titles such as ""Eighth Month"" and ""Ninth Month"" combine an interest in pregnancy and motherhood with attention to the agricultural year, at once inevitable and eccentric: ""the woman tore a flower like a cabbage/ Often she was full of beets."" Breathless, almost punctuation-free lines recall the W.S. Merwin of the 1970s, whose fans ought to love Fishman's work-yet Fishman is hopeful where Merwin was dark, delighted amid disorder. Originality and sincerity make up, in these bravura bursts of song, for what can look like disorganization, and even her many abandonments of syntax and sentence structure serve her emotions, describing her search for a better, unconventional way to live: ""Don't be silly/ like a pillow full of atoms, where to lay your/ head with horses/ in the happiness.""
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