cover image Pet Sounds

Pet Sounds

Stephanie Young. Nightboat, $15.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-937658-94-6

In her fourth book, Young (Ursula or University) explores the complexities of sexual relations in a capitalist society. Throughout, she alludes to diverse cultural artifacts, among them Troilus and Cressida, the music of Van Morrison and the Grateful Dead, and the orca Tilikum and his captors. “I’m quick to reconcile difference,” the speaker says. True to form, these poems often read as efforts to resolve contradictions through narrative (the speaker’s own coming-out story, for instance), an endeavor that proves at turns self-conscious, parodic, and deadly serious. “Unmake that problem,” the speaker proclaims, evoking the power of counternarratives, while elsewhere, she admits: “the path direct, had failed to keep it.” As Young delves into the philosophy of sex and love, the poems are often abstract rather than grounded in tangibles, a choice that may strike some readers as discordant with the content of the poems. In “Congenital,” she writes, “dispossession and constraint// the shape our togetherness took/ not exactly our decision/ not exactly not.” Young examines both individual powerlessness and complicity, offering a complex and rewarding framework for contradiction. (Apr.)