cover image Lessness


Brian Henry. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $17.50 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-934103-20-3

Henry's seventh collection explores decay, erasure, and corruption at a variety of strata: ecological, social, political, sexual, bodily, lyric. The title is emblematic of the book's project. Whether the work begins from a global perspective (Henry is also known for his translations of the Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun), from regional landscape, or from pained and personal reminiscence, there is virtually no subject or object left intact: the poems start from a condition of "less" and then subtract, cut away, or further destroy. Such destruction is not limited to the outside world but is equally manifest in poetic process; especially notable here is Henry's use of deletions (figured as wavering thin strike-through lines or emphatic black-marker blots obscuring entire words), which look like both means and indication of violence, both injury and the scar it leaves. Regardless of the forms or modes of individual poems, which range from the dystopic haiku ("Already part gravel/ the frog in the tire track/ another weed to pull") to a series of loose, precarious elegies, this book offers a powerful re-calibration of the senses, shifting our attention beneath the surfaces and skins of things. (Apr.)