Of Annunciations

Ewa Chrusciel. Omnidawn, $17.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-63243-039-7
Poet and translator Chrusciel (Contraband of Hoopoe) considers notions of exile, migration, and spiritual devastation in her latest collection. Visions of loss and confusion permeate oceanic waterscapes where “The Sea suspends its apparitions” and “Stardust rusts.” The world of this book is one in ruins; various voices, including those of the Syrian refugee, the refugee camp volunteer, and even “the non-migrant,” appear throughout the text. Sometimes, these voices speak as a collective: “Trapped in waves, we yearn to exist.” In “Guardian Angel of Exodus,” a poem composed of “various translations & appropriations of Exodus 22:21,” readers are reminded that we are, like the dispossessed refugees (and their oppressors) in these poems, “strangers in the land of the strange.” Chrusciel poses philosophical questions throughout the text, such as “Do souls have a language?” and “What is the loon that descends/ us into silences?” Her poems operate where the borders between self and other give way to a larger cosmic, perhaps more spiritual, truth: “single leaf clash and iterate clash and clash a single leaf yes you.” Less spiritually inclined readers may struggle with some aspects of this otherwise harrowing and highly accomplished collection, but the effectiveness of Chrusciel’s poetics of witness is impossible to deny. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/18/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
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