cover image Carolina Ghost Woods

Carolina Ghost Woods

Judy Jordan. Louisiana State University Press, $16.95 (72pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-2556-4

Wintry in tone, titles and topics--""Ice molds my life"" as one poem puts it--Jordan's debut scours the wooded terrain for metaphors of death (""It's dirt and dust after all"") and trolls her family history for murders, suicides, threats and promises of the end. The governing influence here is Charles Wright, whose learned, long-lined, colloquial mysticism speaks through lines like ""The dead stow my name in the slack of their mouths,"" or ""the dead have me in their pocket,"" yet places such possessions in specific situations, as ""When Hitchhiking into West Virginia"" or when stuck in ""the all-night deli."" The book's wanderings come as a result of mourning for a variety of figures: the poet's grandmother, other relatives, friends, neighbors violently dead. As poems answer each other and develop the theme, the dead become the poet's lost form and lost work--particularly the mother. When the speaker watches toads possessing ""faith in their wholeness and desire,"" she knows what she lacks. Alliteration, internal rhyme and other resources of sound are on impressive display throughout the book, which won last year's Walt Whitman award from the Academy of American Poets, but the whole can't quite lift grief out the specific grievings. (Apr.)