Only the Senses Sleep

Wayne Miller, Author . New Issues $14 (84p) ISBN 978-1-930974-65-4

The 35 poems and sequences of this mature debut take an intimate look at everyday objects and incidents. Whether sitting in an empty room ("I was here/ each time a book opened in my hands// and my then-obsession dumped meaning/ through a trap door in the page"), writing letters to Sappho ("In the vast history between us/ so much has happened"), describing a sunrise, or elegizing a lost mentor—"How inadequate this is (I thought// perhaps the paper could be made/ from your ashes)"—Miller describes both the visible and the invisible with elegant ease. These poems dissolve the boundaries between things and across time, so that the strangeness of the world is apparent: "the sunlight comes as if through a phonograph needle"; elsewhere, the pills that will deliver Georg Trakl's suicide "dissolve word-like in a stranger's throat." The book is also rife with epigrammatic phrases ("pain is what pain does ") and remarkable descriptions ("The snow stretched from the cabin window/ like a drying sail"). Charting shifting perceptions of an ever-shifting world, Miller's is a welcome new voice: "What's at issue is air", he writes, "words gripping its thick wet fur / while it fills us and leaves us." (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/31/2006
Release date: 01/01/2006
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