Beyond the Chainlink

Rusty Morrison. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-934103-46-3
Vividly serious and adroitly terse, this fifth collection from poet and publisher Morrison (After Urgency) steers a sharp course between the free play of figurative language and the demands of insistent memory. With several poems entitled “Backward rowing,” several epigraphs from Danish poet Inger Christensen, and intriguing “formulations” (her term) that resemble Continental philosophy (“In a dialogic creation of meaning, everything/ must be eaten up”), Morrison’s syntactically isolated couplets, and her almost teasing impressions, can test a reader’s perception. Her unusual layout (some couplets right justified and others left justified) appears to ask whether we can put in the connections she leaves out. Yet these sets of pagelong poems turn out to pursue the same subjects, the same feelings, as those that more direct, even confessional, styles are often used for: romances approached and dissolved, the passage of days and seasons and the power of the outdoors, the ways that the human body fits and does not fit into its own desires. “Literal as the cat asleep on the bed,” the Northern California–based writer finds herself “in the home/ I’ve buried in retellings”; later she turns a memory into a powerful come-on, declaring, “My new sundress is neither the solution nor the absurdity// but in the afterlife, I want to remember your hands/ helping me unbutton its buttons.” (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/2014
Release date: 02/01/2014
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