cover image Laughing Africa: Poems

Laughing Africa: Poems

Terese Svoboda. University of Iowa Press, $13 (119pp) ISBN 978-0-87745-272-0

This urgent, spirited collection ranges in tone and subject matter from the vehemently political to the deeply personal. Svoboda ( All Aberration ) draws on her experiences in Africa and the South Pacific to examine modernity's subversion of humanity's archetypal, fundamental impulses. Insistent rhythms and recurring images of a ``Paradise'' lost to war, exploitation and nuclear destruction make apparent the poet's belief in a global fall from grace to a world of ``knowledge without antidote'' where ``we have science clutched to our breast / like a lily.'' Svoboda's vision is not entirely bleak, however, and she pursues a recovered, Whitmanesque innocence as symbolized by the fertile, primitive landscape ``where we began'': Africa. ``I hear Africa singing, . . . / and what I see is Africa / the beautiful, a wildness that's America's / no longer.'' In deftly crafted poems alternately hard-edged, sensual and tender, Svoboda delicately balances a harsh, yet convincing indictment of Western culture with an equally ardent belief in the possibility of human compassion and responsibility. (May)