cover image Meme


Susan Wheeler. Univ. of Iowa, $18 trade paper (102p) ISBN 978-1-60938-127-1

"There is no knack for grief," writes Wheeler (Assorted Poems), but her far-reaching experimentation suggests that%E2%80%94through language%E2%80%94she's seeking one. Three wild sequences struggling with loss comprise this volume: In "The Maud Poems," a daughter attempts to make sense of a mother's language rife with idioms and clich%C3%A9s by collaging stanzas of the poet's own lyric voice ("In the sepulcher where the mother lay/ at last some sleep to gain,/ Hannah helped me carve the oak/ into granite with her cane") between nagging bursts ("Don't come in here all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed expecting us to give you more"). The second sequence, "The Devil%E2%80%94or%E2%80%94The Introjects" remixes this vernacular with narrative in dense%E2%80%94sometimes opaque%E2%80%94units. The last is also the most stirring sequence: "The Split" recounts disaster that "doubles at the slightest slight" through slippery lines that reveal masterful dexterity without compromising meaning. "Such is the state of our poetry caught in my throat on its way/ to my mouth, why not do everything// but of course we do nothing" she writes. Wheeler's ambitious new book comes closer to doing everything%E2%80%94much closer%E2%80%94and we are left awed at Wheeler's audacity. (Oct.)