Wings Without Birds

Brian Henry, Salt (Ingram, dist.), $15.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-84471748-4
The prolific and versatile Henry (Quarantine) comes home, quite literally, in this new collection, whose stand-alone poems address the frustrations and pleasures of domestic life: houses and yards in New Hampshire, Georgia, and Virginia are the backgrounds for portrayals of his young children, his thoughts about fatherhood, and his struggle to reconcile familial responsibilities with international literary ambitions. The well-sequenced volume begins with a brace of short, amicable poems—one ends in a burst of winning self-consciousness: "as, now, two and half days later/ your daughter, that much older than when this began, kisses you in her sleep on the back of the head." Yet aggression and shock value are never too far away: "there is a menace aswill/ in the crawlspace, stripping the pipes of insulation," and a menace abroad in Henry's world. The long, introspective, admirably honest diary-poem called "Where We Stand Now" juxtaposes late Bush-era global anxiety with the sometimes curt self-hatred that has inflected most of Henry's best poems: "What do you want for your birthday?/ To forget." Restrained and clear, these pages continue to chafe at their own restraints; though few approach the elegance of the single best poem (a story about a girl in an oak tree), many will resonate across generational lines. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/28/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
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