cover image Worn Smooth Between Devourings

Worn Smooth Between Devourings

Lauren Camp. NYQ Books, $18.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-63045-102-8

“The weighted/ desert with its endless edges” plays a central role in Camp’s image-rich latest (after Took House). This inhospitable terrain comforts and sustains, even while it is freighted with failure: “That’s what emptiness has become./ There’s a constant gristle of air./ A stone moon parties the dark./ Around us a perfect landscape of ruins.” If “a desert takes what staggers to it,” it also suggests survival in “every green impulse,/ every desperate step,” and in the water that “chases itself, crying its name.” Having lived in New York, Montana, Massachusetts, and on the West Coast, Camp is now poet laureate of New Mexico, a place that echoes the topography of her Arab Jewish ancestry, which is briefly described. Camp applies a tactile and inventive touch to sometimes anthropomorphic descriptions: “Where the desert bakes its stones/ to old oaths, it is easy to count all the conclusions/ as seduction.” She evocatively describes a moment during quarantine: “I have watched thirty movies of sheep and fields/ spreading slow to the future, and of course I’ve stayed in my house./ Shredded to the country’s mortal glower.” Dryness is a powerful motif here, as is the spirit that echoes the landscape’s vulnerability and regenerative power. (Sept.)