Black Milk

Tory Dent, Author . Sheep Meadow $23.95 (115p) ISBN 978-1-931357-26-5

Dent won much attention (and several prizes) for HIV, Mon Amour (2000), a fiery, unrelenting and detailed verse account of her struggles with the AIDS virus. This harrowing follow-up portrays her tumultuous years of treatment and survival, years of shocking depression, anger and other emotional extremes. "My beliefs, blood-sucking shadows,/ perpetuate themselves paradoxically by virtue of their nihilism," she explains, evoking in a later poem "that vortex, carnivorous, giddy, the death hole/ of my impending diminishingment." The eponymous set of 35 linked lyric poems explores her resentments and deepest terrors, taking its form from Renaissance sonnet sequences and its title from Paul Celan: other works weave Dent's own verse commentary around borrowed lines and whole poems by Celan, Plath, Rilke, Donne, G.M. Hopkins and Mallarmé. Dent's fast-moving long-lined works—negative odes or anti-psalms, perhaps—explore fatigue, survivor guilt, existential despair and self-hate, "agony silenced as if never having existed," mixing biblical denunciations with medical and academic terms ("like consumer to capitalist fetish-object"). The New York poet makes clear in her shorter works her gratitude to her husband and her sense of responsibility to other people with HIV and AIDS, in the U.S. and abroad. At the same time, the poems remain explosive documents of her particular suffering, asking us to imagine ourselves in her place, while knowing that most of us cannot: "For seventeen years," a pantoum says, "I've said 'I won't live another year.' " (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/24/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 85 pages - 978-1-931357-95-1
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-1-931357-37-1
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