Shaler’s Fish

Helen Macdonald. Atlantic Monthly, $22 (96p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2463-0
Macdonald, a British historian, naturalist, and illustrator, made waves with her memoir, H Is for Hawk, but in her debut collection of poetry she goes beyond simply observing the natural world, displaying the indefatigable curiosity that motivated the early naturalists who inspire her. Macdonald employs her knowledge of the natural sciences as she deftly works scientific discoveries into poems on such subjects as love, politics, solitude, death, and more. Her imagery encompasses biology, geology, physics, weather patterns, and astronomy. For example, in “Hyperion to a Satellite,” she invokes Widmanstätten patterns found in meteorites: “Widmanstätten’s grating pat, with a formula/ of primitive and suitably drenched olivine. Noble metals// are dropped onto accident blackspots hailing/ from districts of open light, glossing the connectives// with a discriminating solar bombardment.” The rich and heady language calls to mind the tradition of the English Romantic poets while offering wholly new and original constructions: “the shade of your eyes approximates the blade’s blued dorsal edge/ indigent as the model’s side or even air, seen from below// every moment describes some other music/ and I cannot remember banality ever existing.” Devoted readers of H Is for Hawk will find Macdonald’s gift for stunning language, patient curiosity, and expansive wisdom on full display in her poems. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 62 pages - 978-1-901538-33-5
Hardcover - 72 pages - 978-1-901538-34-2
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-8021-2631-3
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