The Uses of the Body

Deborah Landau. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-481-6
Forces of opposition rule in this gorgeous and unflinching third collection from Landau (The Last Usable Hour), director of NYU’s creative writing program. Powerful and vulnerable, spare in form and ardent in tone, her lyric sequences broach existential questions as sweeping and timeless as her language is particular and contemporary. Mired in the “tumble-rush of days we cannot catch,” Landau looks closely at embodied (particularly female-bodied) experience to address elemental concerns of mortality, birth and parenthood, domesticity, and desire. Any sense of narrative is fragmentary, but context and impetus arise in several containing events, including a wedding, a death, and two pregnancies. Lush musicality and sly playfulness offset or underscore a fundamentally bleak perspective, one framed by the gnawing demand: “And what is the arc of a life./ And up ahead nothing./ On the other side what.” This collection confronts the void head-on while also apprehending the busy and densely peopled textures of lived experience, luxuriating in “The major and minor passions./ Sunlight. Hair.// The basic pleasures. Tomatoes. Keats,// meeting a smart man for a drink.” Landau ventures no answers, but distills many of the most abiding and elemental anxieties that come with the knowledge that “We are here and soon won’t be.” (May)
Reviewed on: 04/20/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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