All Is Not Yet Lost

Betsy Fagin. Belladonna (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (68p) ISBN 978-0-9885399-2-1
Living in but resisting 21st-century capitalism, Fagin (Names Disguised) cuts language into stuttering lines as she reenvisions human connection in her second full-length collection. Fagin is an activist and librarian as well as a poet, and her engagement with social and economic justice recurs throughout. These concerns can be slow to reveal themselves, the lines spliced into voices that seem nearly robotic at times, as when “transmission used/ to be across wires, dogging us./ a nurturing side signals capacity/ to figure out what’s going on/ within the self.” Yet for attentive readers, these intellect-driven phrases return beautifully to intimacy, as even the poem that begins with a “landscape of nightmare” and “nations with malicious intent” ends with the wish of “just wanting you to be happy/ in your little bed right next to mine.” Fagin negotiates between structural powers and the revolution(s) brewing inside, recognizing in turn the contradictions in anything that might seem like an answer. This is a book of intricate operation on every level, from conception to line, from diction to affect. As such, the poems only reveal their fullness through sustained engagement. Fagin’s strange, beautiful music, however, is evidence that the rewards of such engagement are as well-earned as they are plentiful. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/15/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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