Soft Volcano

Libby Burton. Saturnalia, $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-9980534-8-6
Burton leads readers on a dissociative tour through memories of adolescence, parental portraits, and the rites of early adulthood in her debut, winner of the 2017 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Much of the work is preoccupied with seduction, and, in her pursuit of the “weird lust of the everyday,” Burton seems to have internalized the lessons of Roland Barthes’s bible of bliss, The Pleasure of the Text. “I could pursue a degree in the erotics of his knee peeking hungrily from frays,” she writes, exploring “the dog-eared world—/ sultry and caustic.” Frequent swerves into abstraction suggest that one can take only so much delight in the gape of a garment or the flash of skin. “But in the future of our inevitability,// there are broken shopping carts,” she prophesies, and again: “we are contemporary and we are gentle and without dignity, we are growing old.” In such collective utterances, it’s not clear whom is spoken with or for, nor whether the desired tone is prescience or gentle irony. One poem laments that “no one told us which jacket to wear,” while another forecasts “That celestial weather of yes.” Readers may wonder how to dress for these collected “moments of trust” and “intricate channels// of fatigue,” but Burton addresses her book’s own mysteries best: “Open it. Nothing else will do.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-0-9915454-2-1
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