cover image Hard Child

Hard Child

Natalie Shapero. Copper Canyon, $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-509-7

As she transitions into parenthood, Shapero (No Object) contemplates the long investments and fleeting attachments humans make in their turmoil-ridden lives, exuding both mischievousness and melancholy while maintaining a sort of crude optimism. Now a new mother, her admission in the title poem that “there isn’t one/ human tradition I would choose to carry/ forward” reveals as much about her poetry as her lack of interest in doing things conventionally. For a collection in which God appears so frequently, it’s remarkably irreverent. Shapero’s humor generally derives from dark places, as in her tendency toward self-deprecation. “I revere all variants/ of the human/ form, save for my own,” she writes, “being myself composed in haste and subject to uncoupling.” It’s less fatalism than recognition of the limits of the individual: “why is any feat/ so drastically diminished by the presence of/ a second coursing bloodstream, second blur/ of facial features?” Her tight, mainly brief poems work autonomously in the collective, sometimes explicitly linking with their neighbors into loose semblances of narrative. And amid unusually lithe movements, Shapero demonstrates an ability to follow observations to unexpected ends (which is perhaps related to her background in law). “I don’t/ contain within me half enough life to power/ a dog,” Shapero claims, but the evidence in these delightful poems proves otherwise. (Apr.)