cover image Displacement


Leslie Harrison, . . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $13.95 (83pp) ISBN 978-0-547-19842-2

Harrison’s astute if uneven debut stages a contest between memory and geography. On the one hand, she writes about retrospect, regret, elegy: “my father gone into the long/ raveling of sidereal years was gone into coffin/ three days before someone remembered he had/ children somewhere.” On the other hand, she cannot help imagining travel, new vistas, escapes: one such poem, “Peace,” asks us to cherish “brief moments before dawn when you believe/ in other beds, lose possibilities,/ before you don your life like a B-movie/ unlovely and badly cut.” A former photojournalist, Harrison thinks in panels, exposures, frames: her quiet free verse neither undercuts nor much enhances her concise symbols: “You were the kite I used/ to learn to love the wind.” Given her insistence on change and travel, Harrison’s final section (poems about home and houses) can seem predictable. So can her efforts at descriptive epiphany: “the sky like some/ porcelain cup/ crazed and limned.” In her best moments, Harrison extends her poetic sympathies beyond herself—into the sunlight or the outlines of a new place, in a kite, in the rain or in the migrating monarch butterfly, “bitter with the weedy milk/ and his endless, vacant nations.” (July)