Dog Language

Chase Twichell, Author . Copper Canyon $16 (111p) ISBN 978-1-55659-231-7

Impressive in its scrutiny, grim in its overtones, Twichell's sixth book of verse assembles incidents and memories from much of the poet's life, starting with children's games and "the first typeface I loved" and ending in a family graveyard. Her short-lined and thoughtful free verse keeps tragedy and disappointment always in mind: "Look at this skull./ I'm its voice," the first poem ventures. One of the book's five sections covers Twichell's father's last days in a nursing home, where the poet sees "skeletons everywhere,/ riding around on silver wheels." Earlier poems take up clinical depression, mourning, and "self-medication" with recreational drugs. Like Louise Glück, Twichell explores "the secret/ Protestant pride in asceticism," making stark declarations from which other poets would shrink: "Listen, former self:/ you're a child." Yet it would be wrong to think this serious book without joys. Some of the best, most optimistic passages concern companion animals: Twichell dubs herself "the half-human girl/ with dog blood in her veins," and prays "Stay with me, dogs/ black-and-white spirits/ asleep by the door." By comparison with her spare earlier work (Perdido ; The Ghost of Eden ), Twichell's new poems are more detailed and more personal, and just as careful to find the right words. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/12/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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