MOTHER IN SUMMER

Susan Firestone Hahn, Author . TriQuarterly $39.95 (104p) ISBN 0-8101-5129-4 ISBN 0-8101-5130-8

Comprised of three sets of dirges sung by a daughter over her mother's failing, and then fallen, body, Hahn's fifth collection, following on last year's Holiday, comes up oddly short. The flowers and offbeat, passionate religiosity Hahn has always favored return here in their full glory, but, like the book's semantically overlapping section titles ("Pathétique," "Appassionata" and "Lacrimosa"), these poems tend to strike the same notes again and again. The bounteous fruit of the summer garden is a sinister vision of overly fecund cancer cells, as a "full-blown flowered/ lump" grows on her mother's neck, and the speaker must "watch/ the doctor finger the florid node." As the garden offers "huge bouquets// of summer flowers," the cells within the speaker's mother's body continue their frenzied reproduction, and the shell of her body fades. Despite the candor of the speaker's grief and rage, these poems can read as overly elaborate verbal ritual; phrases like "Soon, only my pen will draw her in," or "That night/ when you appeared, I saw you lift the stars" sound worn. Still, the insistence and the constancy of Hahn's raw emotion lend her figures an unmistakable humanity. (May)

Forecast:Hahn has edited the magazine arm of TriQuarterly since 1997, and co-edits the press, published out of Northwestern University. Holiday was published by the University of Chicago press; look again for regional success for this title, being published just six months later.

Reviewed on: 04/29/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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