cover image ORIGAMI BRIDGES: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire

ORIGAMI BRIDGES: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire

Diane Ackerman, . . HarperCollins, $22.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019988-3

Celebrated for her wide-ranging and personal essays on nature, art and love, Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses; Deep Play) has also maintained a career as a poet; this latest volume of short poems "emerged, hot off the heart" (as Ackerman's introduction explains) from her intense and gratifying experience of psychoanalysis. Sometimes addressed to herself and her personal history, at least as often addressed to "Dr. B—," Ackerman's passionate free verse (short, fluent and adorned by irregular rhyme) describes with nearly unmixed awe the relationship she created with her analyst, and the personal transformation she achieved. Unfortunately, the results fare badly as art: clichés, predictable figuration, mixed metaphor, and clunky diction mar almost every page of this strikingly rough, even amateurish, sequence. Very familiar figures for the events and feelings of therapy—and for introspection in general— abound. Patient and doctor "journey alone together/ through the wild country of the soul." Ackerman' speaker "weeps as she nabs/ a fugitive memory/ in an ecstasy of shame"; fears that "I'll lose my inner voice," and devotes one poem to a youthful, hopeful alter ego called Molly: "I can't revive Molly's utopia," she explains, "but I believe there lived and loved once/ a frisky scamp like her." "By reading you/ reading me trying to read you," Ackerman says near the end of her analysis, "I build idioms of acceptance/ from grief's residue"; such self-trust and self-confidence may be admirable in life, but in these poems they sound like self- involvement. Readers who want revealing, white-hot verse based on psychotherapy should stick with Anne Sexton (whose late work these poems faintly resemble); fans of Ackerman's prose will not find her compositional skills in evidence here. (Oct.)