cover image Corridor


Saskia Hamilton. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-55597-675-0

Focused on each “rib and spine or/ rafter and beam” of language, Hamilton (Canal) delivers a collection of deceptively brief, lean poems. With subtle hints of noir, she favors atmospheres of night and rain, where time moves differently: “The day is over over there.” The collection is bookended by two short poems that share the title “Night-jar,” the name of a small bird that is active in the twilight hours. These birds act as a kind of portal into Hamilton’s gray world, which might be inspired by, but is not part of, a countryside that has fallen into ruin, a “wood with its innumerable pathways” to “tall grasses, fields and sheep.” Or maybe it is a landscape constructed from some “internal/ forest.” Strangers’ voices drift in and out like mist, and there is always a studied lack of clarity that gives the collection an irresistible tension: “‘The ineffable/ is everywhere in language,’/ the speaker had said/ in the huge hall where/ I sat amongst coughers.” Elsewhere in this dreamlike hall, “A door opened on another room/ its own were ajar, white doors,/ a figure removing into the shadow.” The book’s allure is in chasing that shadow, or, as Hamilton suggests, “stir the white paint,/ to change the dream.” (June)