Spectra

Ashley Toliver. Coffee House, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-56689-526-2
In her radiant debut, Toliver carefully explores domesticity, medical trauma, and the profound limitations of having a body. Divided into three sections, the book opens with revelatory images of light that spark a phenomenological query into the nature of perception: “Once, I heard a father tell his older daughter,/ you are a clear pool where light plays.” The first section, “Housekeeping,” consists of a series of prose poems that carry tensions of domestic interiority and destructive urges: “I still don’t know what kind of woman/ I am. But as the flame nears the fingers/ that trust the match, as close as the skin/ can stand it to singe, I call this the nerve/ to find out,” Toliver writes. A narrative handrail appears in “Ideal Machine,” where a surgery is treated with grace and tender images evolve out of loss: “dear optic nerve dear crushed penny// in the dark I watch explosions.” The satisfying, titular closing section looks outward at the glory of nature and human familiars. Toliver writes, “it is dusk on earth I see/ myself through you// in the last pew/ of the lit horizon/ in the wide-open field of the now.” Testing the bounds of relationships and identity, Toliver displays her linguistic gifts in poems that resist egotism and startle with their intimacy. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-56689-534-7
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