cover image Little Million Doors

Little Million Doors

Chad Sweeney. Nightboat, $15.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-64362-000-8

Written after the death of the poet’s father and during an autistic episode, poet and translator Sweeney (Arranging the Blaze) masters the art of understatement in this book of forthright and delicate poems. Spare couplets carry untitled, unpunctuated poems full of probing questions: “the body// A lantern how/ To say it// It it,” and “What is it to live/ Is to want to live,” as well as moments of synesthetic experience: “House in a/ Street of houses my/ Hands in the trees for bells.” Grief is the ostensible subject throughout, offering a searching elegy: “for years I could not// Answer a music in pain the undying// Will undying in the dying grass.” But sorrow gives way to other emotions: “I’ve tried to hold/ to anger a snow// Delineates the thin/ Winter// Branches.” Emily Dickinson’s influence is palpable throughout this meditative book. Yet the speaker recognizes that affective attunement and scrupulous observation will carry us only so far: “But I am a tree of no branches/ Tree of no tree,” and elsewhere, “I am looking but there is no/ Me to do the looking.” What knowledge we gain, the poet hazards, might be found through absence and negation. [em](Apr.) [/em]