Beautiful Zero

Jennifer Willoughby. Milkweed Editions (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-480-2
“What if I tell you that the face of a woman/ is full of questions,” asks the forceful, strong-voiced speaker of Willoughby’s debut. “The questions point away/ from her body,” and Willoughby moves by probing outward through a process of active association. Her poems rely on idiosyncratic observation, asking of the poetic task, “isn’t forensic investigation where it’s at?” As the speaker’s mind (and also the reader’s) wanders in response to diffuse stimuli, one’s initial sense of the world is replaced swiftly with another and then another, and novelty becomes key to making meaning. It’s a world in which “a bird is an object that breaks light/ into patterns” and “The trees don’t know if/ this will ever get better.” Novelty pervades the heart of the collection, a near-confessional series called “Kaiser Variations” that takes a formally inventive approach to describing a long hospitalization and repeated encounters with the night surgeon. They’re nothing short of surreal, befitting a magical and energetic collection where the “sky turns the color/ of morning glories just before they/ die.” Reacquainting readers with the endless potential of language, Willoughby shows that “What’s great about the jungle,” and indeed, what’s great about these poems, is that “there/ are all these ways to love.” (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Release date: 12/01/2015
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-57131-942-5
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