cover image Zoom Rooms

Zoom Rooms

Mary Jo Salter. Knopf, $28 (96p) ISBN 978-0-593-32131-7

The timely and delightful ninth collection from Salter (The Surveyors) addresses the bewildering present moment while reminding of past (and future) pleasures. Salter conjures a rich cast of characters and literary allusions, her fine ear on display at every turn. In one poem, she describes Chopin, “The handsomer for your pallor, still you thrill/ To the flood of sun into your sickroom.” Her interest in the ekphrastic form is apparent, as in the poignant “St. Sebastian Interceding for the Plague-Stricken,” which presents haunting echoes of the present day. However, this interest transcends mere artistic translation from one medium to another, and her poems consistently explore what can only be intimated or suggested: “No, what Giotto’s got to do/ is make God in man’s image and/ render His resplendence as// intolerable,” she writes in “Triangle.” Elsewhere, poems focus on moments that, in the context of the pandemic present, take on a new depth and vision. The title poem, “Zoom Rooms,” captures the alienation, strangeness, and unprecedented circumstances of negotiating this pain: “Shocking you died (of ‘something else’), and even/ stranger you’re more present in our grief:/ more three-dimensional than we are now.” Salter’s direct and unfailingly imaginative works make this collection a thorough pleasure. (Mar.)