cover image Should You Be a River: A Poem About Love

Should You Be a River: A Poem About Love

Ed Young. Little, Brown, $18 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-23089-6

Young (The House Baba Built), writing in tribute to his late wife, builds a series of couplets that reveal human passion reflected in the magnificence of the natural world. "Should you be a river," he starts, "I'll race your rapids downstream." Young's spreads, which occasionally expand via gatefolds, combine torn fragments of photographs and crisply cut, stylized paper figures that suggest the brushstrokes of Chinese calligraphy. The human forms are seen against images of running water, trees, flame, smoke, and clouds, and the compositions seem to gather strength as the pages turn. In one spread, torn pieces of photographs of clouds ("Should you be a cloud, I'll imagine you in countless fantastic forms") resolve into a horse that dwarfs a tiny cutout of a human. In the next ("Should you be thunder, I'll hold my breath, hands over my ears"), the torn white edges of the photographs become bolts of lightning streaking down from the steely sky. The heartfelt sentiments are unafraid to address real anguish and pain ("Should you be a waterfall, I'll scream when you plunge"), and those who understand Young's loss or who have known what it is to love unreservedly will be drawn to his testament. Ages 3%E2%80%93up. Agent: Christa Heschke, McIntosh & Otis. (Apr.)