cover image Traffic with Macbeth

Traffic with Macbeth

Larissa Szporluk. Tupelo (, $16.95 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-1-936797-02-8

Szporluk’s fifth collection evokes an atmosphere as darkly portentous as that of Shakespeare’s play: the book is a wild, clever assembly of lyrics that work through a world of molder and rot, entrapment and transformation, love and—unabashedly—hate. The hallucinatory delight of many of the monologues in this book comes from the poet’s assumption of a variety of speakers who are not psychologized but rather realized at the level of language: in the poem “Gargoyle,” we hear the strange dimeter of the speaker’s “feeble dream/ of a mauve wet gut/ of a unicorn dove,” or, in “Windmill,” the circling music of heavy enjambment: “I can’t cry so I/ smack the extent/ of my face but I/ can so I hate/ the oblique of my /vanes.” Throughout the collection, Szporluk’s verse, which ranges from dreamy to strange to grotesque, sounds like neither Shakespeare’s pentameter, the rhythm of natural speech, nor like the free verse favored by most contemporary poets, but rather most resembles the clipped, rollicking incantation of the charm of Macbeth’s three witches. Desperate, dense, horrible, and lovely, Szporluk’s work is, to use those witches’ words, a similar “charm of powerful trouble.” (Sept.)