Only as the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems

Dorianne Laux. Norton, $26.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-393-65233-8
Featuring selections from five books augmented by 20 new poems, this generous volume from Laux (The Book of Men) reads something like a life story: notably, one that begins with familial fear, incest, and abuse. Travelling through confusion, adult sex, motherhood, love, fatigue, and redemption, Laux ends where she begins: with her mother, who is, to the last, a troublesome nurse. In spite of everything, the poet can’t help but celebrate the self’s mistakes and triumphs. When Laux welcomes readers into a personal moment, she speaks for humankind: “We’ve forgotten the luxury of dumbness,/ how once we crouched naked on an outcrop/ of rock, the moon huge and untouched/ above us, speechless.” Concrete places abound: bedroom, trailer, hospital psychiatric ward, a porch. There is a lot of sex; for example, “Vacation Sex,” an aroused version of a travel tour, revels in its own obsessive pleasure. Some of the best poems here appear toward the chronologically organized collection’s end, where humor arrives despite a mother’s growing dementia. And in the long biographical poem “Arizona,” Laux writes lovingly of that same mother’s face as “a map of every place she’d been.” This is a catalogue of honest work, from beginning to end. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/19/2018
Release date: 01/15/2019
Genre: Fiction
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