Sun & Urn: Poems

Christopher Salerno. Univ. of Georgia, $19.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-8203-5049-3
In his haunting fourth collection, Salerno (ATM) weaves a morbid kind of melancholia into the mundane and negotiates the experience of loss and a lack of fulfillment. These poems are not about sorrow but are still sorrowful. The death of Salerno’s father infuses the poems with grief, capturing the way loss invades a life in small and often indefinable ways. “The difficulty of sorrow/ is the way it coheres, never/ staying distant as it once did,” Salerno writes. Across the three poems titled “In Vitro,” he evokes a sensation of limbo, which within the poems is where an unborn daughter plays Chopin on grand pianos swaying alongside the Titanic’s wreck. The picture reveals a powerful mournfulness that reflects the writer’s own state of limbo, his unease in a fatherless world. As Salerno puts it, “Disquietude, that’s a word/ with a dial.” The poems disquietingly hum with questions of what to do after death—whether one’s own or another’s. For whatever simple answers the poet seems to have for great unspoken questions—“There are ways to say die/ without a findable body”—Salerno wields just as many queries, yielding a book ripe with eerie and meaning-filled unknowing: “Do you think it (death) is supposed to come as a surprise?/ Like the moon claiming you?” (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2016
Release date: 02/15/2017
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