In her first poetry collection since 1987's Selected Poems II, Atwood brings a swift, powerful energy to meditative poems that often begin in domestic settings and then broaden into numinous dialogues. In ``In the Secular Night,'' the speaker, who has wandered through her house talking to herself of the ``sensed absences of God,'' realizes ``Several hundred years ago/this could have been mysticism/ or heresy. It isn't now.'' In five roughly thematic sections, Atwood often displays incisive humor (``Ava Gardner Reincarnated as a Magnolia''). The most vivid poems forge an apprehensible human aspect from scholarly fields of science, history and religion: in ``Half-hanged Mary'' a woman who was being hanged for witchery, survives and tolls each hour until she is cut down. The final grouping seems compiled from the charred remains of a deeply examined life, where only ``the power of what is not there'' may transcend. Atwood's lean, free-verse style renders these apocryphal poems intimate and immediate. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995 Release date: 10/01/1995 Genre: Fiction
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