cover image Halflife


Meghan O'Rourke, . . Norton, $23.95 (87pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06475-9

The first collection from O'Rourke—critic, Slate culture editor and poetry editor at the Paris Review— displays a playful, energetic intelligence, varied aesthetics and a welcome self-possession, along with the inevitable growing pains. The power of first meetings, quick regrets and a generation for whom things happen fast animates O'Rourke when she is at her most inventive. Beginnings are her strong suit, as are evocations of teen dilemmas (as in "My Life as a Teenager") and stellar lines: "Strange to live in a wet world, then wake in the desert." Also included are two autobiographical sequences whose terse, grim cadence resembles, perhaps too strongly, Louise Glück's, and a few other imagistic lyrics reminiscent of Sylvia Plath: "The buds have already begun, fat pink fingertips." Such moments, though, do not weigh down the book; they are outnumbered by the forward-looking, deft promises at which O'Rourke excels, ending even a poem called "Elegy" on a melancholy high note: "How lucky it is I was born/ to tell you the way it all turned out." This may be one of the most talked about first books of the year. (Apr.)