cover image The Dig: Poems

The Dig: Poems

Lynn Emanuel. University of Illinois Press, $10.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-252-06251-3

According to a note in the coda, the speaker of these poems sits ``typing by the window, a thin woman in a flowered housedress . . . . I was poor. I wrote. I killed myself.'' Sections entitled ``The Beginning'' and ``Beginning Again'' reflect the chronology of this woman's life and afterlife. And while this format is contrived, it does produce the book's best piece, ``The Dig,'' in which the speaker's ``reassembled head'' watches an archaeologist ``mend with glue and wire the shallow saucer of my pelvis.'' Emanuel's most convincing poems are drawn from her youth in Ely, Nev., a 1950s landscape of bomb-testing sites, seedy motels and ``pawnshop windows filled with wedding rings and guns.'' At the local movie house, teenagers join ``grandmothers with their shanks tied up in the tourniquets of rolled stockings.'' Emanuel ( Hotel Fiesta ) is witty and brave in drawing family vignettes and depicting a poverty-scarred childhood. ``Outside Room Six'' finds the speaker on her knees polishing linoleum when ``dead Grandma Fry looks down on me / from Paradise and tells me from the balcony of wrath / I am girlhood's one bad line of credit.'' This volume was chosen by Gerald Stern for the National Poetry series. (June)