Our Andromeda

Brenda Shaughnessy. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (131p) ISBN 978-1-55659-410-6
This third collection from Shaughnessy (Human Dark with Sugar) is a fierce, angry, and at times wrathful book, full of anguished suffering in media res. The profound difficulties of dealing with a disabled child are not so much reflected upon by a parent as lived and registered in a poet’s language. Indeed, the torment strains against the conventions of line and stanza, brusquely resisting music and pretensions to sincerity (“I’m such a fraud/ I can’t even convince you/ of my fraudulence”). In her work, Shaughnessy has often punished herself for selfishness and even ambition, but here, life has dealt her a brutal hand, and in this ultimately brave record the poet emerges with a surprising gift. Like war poetry, this volume is about survival. Part 1, Liquid Flesh, works familiar Shaughnessy terrain—tough lyrics about self. Double Life, part 2, finds the poet in a relative and nearly banal peacetime, venting at such things as Fox News and duplicity in relationships; a sequence called Arcana follows, poems based on the Tarot (“The Hanged Man,” “The Fool,” etc.), in which the poet barely controls an anger that is beginning to rage; part 4, Family Trip, distracts with memories of the bitter struggles for identity within family (“I wish I had more sisters,/ enough to fight with…”); all of which culminates in the explosive title sequence, Our Andromeda, which settles scores, lays waste to early selves—not to mention medical practitioners and the birthing mother herself—and, in the long closing poem, by turns harrowing, mean, and fatalistic—is, suddenly, transformative. In these last pages, against all expectations, the poet has conjured an alternate galaxy in which doctors are competent, insurance companies humane, God exists (“a God for me after all”), and the boy Cal has an “even fight”—and a mother’s love. Another Brooklyn poet, Marianne Moore, defined poetry as “imaginary gardens, with real toads in them.” In Our Andromeda, Shaughnessy has imagined a universe, and in it, real love moves, quick with life. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-61932-028-4
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