cover image The Prayer Book of the Anxious

The Prayer Book of the Anxious

Josephine Yu. Elixir (SPD, dist.), $17 ISBN 978-1-932418-58-3

Yu cheekily tap-dances across the line between self-help and religious texts in her excellent debut collection. She translates the complexities of relationships into fables; domestic objects become symbols imbued with a magic that is more blasphemous than mystical: “Lead us not/ into the temptation of sublets or studio walk-ups/ that get good afternoon light in our imagination.” Her speaker is often in conflict with religious tenets but reclaims their language and structures to make sense of contemporary life. Both bawdy and reverent, tender and frustrated, Yu’s poems, which are often humorously titled, maintain a curiosity that is almost rapturous—a questioning always followed by the infectious satisfaction of solving the puzzle. “If this is a fable, what is the moral? What animal am I? What glass jar will fill with rain, raising what berry within my reach?” The poems never become didactic, and the permutations that Yu’s statements and queries take often feel like they’re surprising to her. Moreover, because even searing tragedies are greeted with tongue planted in cheek, subjects such as mental illness and divorce become approachable and navigable. With a perceptiveness and poise that serve as a curative balm, Yu brilliantly tackles the notion of healing in a society that can make its most aware citizens ill. (Oct.)