cover image Atopia


Sandra Simonds. Wesleyan Univ., $15.95 trade paper (102p) ISBN 978-0-819579-04-1

In this fatalistic seventh collection, Simonds (Orlando) offers a sequence of untitled poems concerned with ecological and political disaster under the immobilizing force of capitalism: “Kierkegaard says anyone who follows through/ on an idea becomes unpopular. And also/ that a person needs a system, otherwise you/ become mere personality.” These “systems” are under Simonds’s scrutiny, as she weaves the language of social media with dialogue and reportage: “I allow myself to listen to the news/ on the car radio,” she writes, “some reports of ICE officers/ removing a woman with a brain tumor from/ a Texas hospital—taught my kids/ to walk to school. It’s all/ I can do; it’s all I can do.” In the penultimate poem, Simonds appears to anticipate the reader’s response to this position: “You thought you had called/ a doctor/ but it was just me,/ The Hollows./ Knock knock.” The mystery of this moment, with its Dickinsonian capitalization, is rare in these pages, but it magnifies the book’s burning anger and questions around the purpose of the poet and poetry. Simonds paints a careful portrait of the struggle to embrace difficult realities in an age in which it would be irresponsible to ignore them, even if doing so offers no easy path forward. (Nov.)