Rough Knowledge

Christine Poreba. Anhinga (SPD, dist.), $20 trade paper (74p) ISBN 978-1-934695-47-0
Poreba, winner of the 2014 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, maximizes the effects of visceral language in this fine-tuned debut. She understands how to manipulate traditional poetic forms effectively and uses dissonance and discord to underscore the possibility of the impossible becoming real. Her ability to expand a seemingly simplistic or inconsequential event or snapshot into a weighty mini-movie is evident in the opening poem, “Toward Home.” Setting the tone by focusing on a horseshoe crab’s struggle to turn upright, which is used as a metaphor of rebirth against the odds, a victory over what appeared to be inevitable: “what I thought was dead becoming alive again.” When she’s not contemplating the pastoral, Poreba examines the nature of identity and human institutions, using metaphors of construction (building a house, doing renovations, etc.). In “Rebuilding a House,” the subject takes on the personality of a conventionally feminine woman, one dressed to kill in stilettos and straightening “out her pleated skirt.” Similarly, in “A Knob, a Post, a Scattering” she uses home renovation as a lens through which to observe the ins and outs of a domestic relationship. Guided by a quiet determination and clear-eyed self-awareness, Poreba knows how to find stability in moments of tumult. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Genre: Fiction
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