Eco-Dementia

Janet Kauffman. Wayne State Univ., $16.99 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-8143-4381-4
In this experimental ode to an impending apocalypse, Kauffman (Trespassing) surveys the toxic relationship between humankind and the natural world via eerie portents and striking imagery. She asserts in the title poem that “time has taken us far too far for scattershot revelations or shortcuts,” implying that it may be too late to set things right again ecologically. The collection is permeated with anxiety. The images, such as a child’s doll caught in a flood, are haunting and occasionally disturbing: “black and white cows/ on swollen knees in the warehouse.” Species limp pitifully toward extinction; gnats that “carried away the small shadows” barely register to humans as missing. Kauffman’s use of language varies from obtuse to enchantingly musical: “An elaboration of stalk/ and stilts, Angelica leans,/ she tilts, cantilevers.” An oblique lack of subtlety is evident in such lines as “A warring machine/ flexes, exploding/ bird song.” A combination of these characteristics works to advance Kauffman’s theme and atmosphere of general hopelessness. Late in the collection, she explores more fantastical terrain, featuring naiads and a magic wand made from witch hazel and “sprouts of pig hair.” These poems are cast as a message from a future in which environmental devastation has advanced to an irreversible and frightening degree, a prescient warning and spirited depiction of yearning for lost beauty. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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