cover image The Second Body

The Second Body

Claire Donato. Poor Claudia (SPD, dist.), $17.50 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-0-9908324-6-1

Donato follows her genre-bending novella, Burial, with a densely evocative collection of poems in which she muses on language, visual art, and biology. These poems demonstrate a hyperconscious awareness of reality’s complex gloom and are filled with veiled references to assassinations, Jorge Luis Borges, taxidermy, Buddhism, and scientific findings. Donato sees the world in its “insoluble calcium compounds,” and her poems radiate an intoxicating darkness. In “Grief Interlude,” one of the collection’s highlights, Donato unites the melodious abstraction of her syntax with a mindful questioning of language, while the poem itself circles, vulture-like, around someone’s death. She devotes most of the fourth section to contemplations of animal rights, a rare topic in contemporary poetry. But it’s the perfect platform for her morbidness and metaphysical gleanings: “Cow, a/ Steak; the kill floor, a// Harvesting department punctuated/ by Machinery’s infinite form.” “Off to the Nervous Museum,” a lengthy existential anthem, stays true to its eponymous jitters. “The brain is a structure/ of chemistry, true, the spinal cord the eye the mind all innervate// Connectivity,” she writes. “You think you own yourself// You’re wrong. Keep up.” Donato’s lines are, like the collection, at once an appeal and a warning—and wide open to interpretation. (Apr.)