cover image Life on Earth

Life on Earth

Dorianne Laux. Norton, $26.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-324-06582-1

With this spellbinding seventh collection, Laux (Only as the Day Is Long) brings to life the simple pleasures and small agonies of human existence. Many of the poems are odes praising a host of conveniences and delights—salt, WD-40, French toast. The latter entry doubles as a tribute to Laux’s Acadian ancestors and offers some of her most delightful imagery as she calls herself the “daughter/ of a people who refused to die: sacks/ of wheat on their shoulders, spoon/ in a belt loop, sugar sprinkled in a pant cuff,/ a sleeping chicken hidden under a coat.” The poem about Bisquick, meanwhile, doubles as an ode to Laux’s mother, of whom she writes frequently and tenderly throughout: “We’d wake/ to pancakes in the cast iron skillet,/ and it seemed she’d never slept,/ never stopped, eggs cracking open,/ spilling each whole yellow globe/ into a blue bowl.” In the quietly moving elegy “Winter Brother,” the poet finds comfort in imaging the constellation Orion as an emblem of her late brother, “who died far from home/ on a lonely road.” The occasional left-field entry, such as a poem imagining a sexual encounter between Ho Chi Minh and Mae West, keeps the reader on their toes. Laux makes the quotidian feel monumental in a way that is uniquely her own. (Jan.)