cover image Shirt in Heaven

Shirt in Heaven

Jean Valentine. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (70p) ISBN 978-1-55659-478-6

“I’m, you know, still here,/ tulip, resin, temporary,” Valentine (Break the Glass) declares in a supple new collection of poems that maneuver the dark recesses of consciousness and hum with unearthly energy. The octogenarian former New York State Poet Laureate, winner of the 1965 Yale Younger Poets Prize and 2004 National Book Award for poetry, folds time, summons lost friends in dreams, and conjures lines that are slippery, airy, and thoroughly heartrending. Broken into four parts, the poems of this book move roughly chronologically: the first section, “Luna Moth,” reaches back to her youth and poetic influences; the second section, “Friend,” explores loss: “I wore his hat/ as if it was the rumpled coat/ of his body, like I could put it on.// The coat of his hair, of his brain, its glitter/ he gave it to me, something he’d worn.” The last two sections open wide to perspectives on craft, artwork, and memory. Valentine sees poetry as a kind of erratic teleportation, a door or window leading into the unknown: “that time in that half-underwater cave/ when you dove and came up someplace else,/ and called to me, Come on.” Though Valentine may think she has merely given readers “some bad, worn memories,” she has really given us armfuls of gifts. [em](May) [/em]