cover image Harbinger


Shelley Puhak. Ecco, $16.99 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-06-323396-6

In keeping with its title, this ominous and energetic entry from Puhak (Guinevere in Baltimore) offers an uncertain view of the present and future. The poems, organized as a series of “portraits,” resist despair by giving voice to things in hiding, or on the brink of oblivion. In “Portrait of the Artist as a 100-year-old House,” the environment smells “more like scared/ wet dog, like back of mouth,/ like old apple core.” In others, the artist likens her thoughts to a squirrel, “coiled and crouching,” and speaks as a bog body, inviting the reader to unearth her from under the peat: “Search out my fingers/ under the turf’s muck./ Stroke my hair,/ softer than the moss.” Puhak also explores motherhood and the dangers of men. In “Portrait of the Artist in Labor,” she lists harbingers: “The pills are the harbinger of the eyelid/ twitch. The boys piled in the car/ the harbinger of the rape kit.” These poems are fierce and foreboding, proving poetry’s revelatory power. (Oct.)