cover image Same Life

Same Life

Maureen N. McLane, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22 (109pp) ISBN 978-0-374-16533-8

McLane (who teaches at Harvard) has built up a national reputation as a critic and reviewer, and this debut showcases a poet who is always clear if sometimes terse or challenging, often allusive, yet open about her own life, McLane’s spare free verse, splayed out across the page, draws on such seemingly antithetical resources as Grace Paley and Ezra Pound, the New York painter Philip Guston, Lorine Niedecker, the fragments of Sappho (the basis for one sharp sequence) and the resources of contemporary slang: “we video’d our way from thing/ to thang to thong.” “Catechism”—among McLane’s more serious poems—warns “The place I live is only sometimes shareable thus weeping.” If McLane’s poems, with their white spaces and their clipped phrases, sometimes seem too fragmentary, too much like ordinary speech, often enough their rough edges turn out to be part of a careful design. Alert to tragic truths and to comic moments, politics in America and in France, urban life and country retreats, McLane concludes with what may be her strongest suit: tough-minded eroticism: “do I still turn to them the dead/ who speak in type the way sun bursts between the legs those days/ a tongue moves so.” (Sept.)