cover image Coming to That

Coming to That

Dorothea Tanning. Graywolf, $15 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-55597-601-9

The second poetry collection from centenarian artist and writer Tanning is playful and unrestrained, each poem containing a spontaneous logic of its own. “Cultivation” describes the complexities of growing a “mouse field” rife with “pink noses poking/ through quilts of loam” until, the poem laments, “the falling Dwarves (it was that time of year)/ began landing on my field.” Her poems move within their own laws, mingling the quotidian (“my x-ray checkup/ at the hospital”) with dogs that talk to interviewers with “verve and panache.” Tanning’s poems take the reader on unexpected journeys that stray far from their beginnings, moving with the momentum of sheer joy and restless artistic energy. Pulsing underneath are larger questions, sometimes almost bittersweet, sometimes daunting. “Wisdom Tinged with Joy” approaches financial difficulties with a deft, light hand. In “Never Mind,” Tanning likens her kitchen appliances to “instruments of torture,” asking, “did I press the right/ buttons on all these/ buttonless surfaces/ daring me to press them?” She wonders in another poem, “what did my little future, whatever that was,/ have to do with the real thing, whatever that is?” But she never veers far from her exuberant, quirky positivism. Even death for her is an adventure: “after all, who mourns/ the old sea dog/ leaning into his fall, his new life.” (Sept.)