Contraband of Hoopoe

Ewa Chrusciel. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-890650-99-5
Polish poet Chrusciel (Strata) opens her strange, mesmerizing fourth collection—her second in English—by asking: “Can you feel the apparition?” The book is less a collection of discrete poems than a flowing lyric study on sheltering oneself in the face of many faces of death. That flow is periodically interrupted by 14 poems titled “Ellis,” each of which describes objects, concepts, and people that were carried by immigrants on their journeys to new countries. In between, the mostly untitled poems all begin with an image that eventually unspools into a meditation on religion and oppression: a prayer candle becomes a metaphor for anti-Semitism; St. George’s dragon becomes kudzu vines overtaking buildings and cities. At times Chrusciel’s repetition becomes confusing, heightening a sense of déjà vu. Whole lines reappear in several places. The momentum that Chrusciel builds, however, wards off any tediousness and serves to make the experience of displacement feel familiar, as if one were dreaming, then woken, or maybe in a waking dream. Late in the book we are told that “[i]t is only the gravity of objects that keeps us from moving.” But movement seems holy and in Chrusciel’s hands objects exert their own gravitational pull; each one a little world, hidden, secreted away, and sacred. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/15/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
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