Human Dark with Sugar

Brenda Shaughnessy, Author . Copper Canyon $15 (77p) ISBN 978-1-55659-276-8

The poems in Shaughnessy’s acclaimed debut, Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), earned her comparisons to Sylvia Plath for their sexual frankness, tight-to-bursting compression and musical invention. Her second collection, winner of the Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin Award, brings a greater emotional bandwidth and stylistic suppleness to the task of unmasking “the hoax of boundlessness” in life and in love, “making and making to replace the dreaming at last.” The book’s three sections contain nine, 11 and 10 poems, respectively, and that off-kilter triangulation—from the terse, not-quite-tongue-in-cheek self-dismissal of the first heading, “Anodyne,” to the suggestion of galactic exploration and recording in the last, “Astrolabe”—proves the right three-cornered lens for looking into the darkest corners of human relationships, including their embodiment: “honeyed, self-twinned, fearless,/ a wineskin emptying/ into a singing stranger.” Most are in the second person, who is sometimes the speaker and sometime not; most often, the addressee is a love or lover, who changes, and who is exhorted, berated, courted, rejected, fucked, accepted, lectured, soothed, teased and, always, loved: “I am yours. I am still I.” In its worried acceptance of contradiction, its absolute refusal of sentimentality and its acute awareness of time’s “scarce infinity,” this is a brilliant, beautiful and essential continuation of the metaphysical verse tradition. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/17/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-61932-011-6
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