After Urgency

Rusty Morrison. Tupelo (www.tupelopress.org), $16.95 trade paper (82p) ISBN 978-1-932195-41-5
This third—and best—volume from California resident Morrison (Whethering) is also by far her saddest, reacting to the deaths of her father and mother. Morrison’s quiet, melodious pages, in verse and in one-sentence paragraphs, with nested, repeating titles for sections (“An intersection of leaves and likeness” is one), shift back and forth between thoughts about death and grief, on the one hand, and efforts to live in the present, on the other, as the poet tries to stay aware of each perceptual detail. One of several poems called “Aftermath” considers “A pattern on the wallpaper in my mother’s house.// Already diffident with my distance from her death.” More often Morrison tries to illuminate what she has found outdoors: “Tree-line, water’s edge, places that borders will gather against./ What a body might verge upon, it can neither tame nor rest.” Hoping to find a new center, a less melancholy way to see the world, Morrison often reveals instead “the anxiousness in my fixing on thing after thing”: her methods and goals can bring to mind at once the European experimental literature of grief (Jacques Roubaud, for example) and the restless language of a West Coast Jorie Graham. Often she ends up dejected, and the poems portray dejection well; sometimes, however, her alliterative flourishes à la Hopkins, her quick cuts between the outdoors and the inner life, her ventures into phenomenology, bring a consolation we might not expect. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
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