cover image Loose Sugar

Loose Sugar

Brenda Hillman. Wesleyan University Press, $14.95 (127pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-2243-6

This energetic collection is very different from Hillman's recent collections, Death Tractates (1992) and its companion volume Bright Existence. That pair took a somber, reflective tone in dealing with a close friend's death and Hillman's attempts to come to terms with mortality. This volume is as loose as the sequence of 12 poems from which comes the book's title--a wild ride that includes quotes, parenthetical fragments, monetary charts and wonderful poetic snapshots of Hillman's native Brazil (where her father worked in the sugar industry) as well as descriptions of her current life (""sometimes the outline of my husband's ear in the half dark/ looks like Brazil""). The poems are concerned with the connection between immediacy and history, body and soul, thought and feeling. But sustained poetic argument is not Hillman's focus here. Conceit and idea fade before sensuous descriptions of men and women whose ""hands were sleek/ with asking sleek with asking,"" of schoolboys with ""those long intramural after/ the library type fingers/ they would later put in you,"" and of girls standing ""in long paisley dresses, coyote cries/ coming through them, something frightened and/ being canceled."" In many ways, the collection lives up to its title: its attention is scattered, and so are its many pleasures. (Mar.)