cover image Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space

Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space

Catherine Barnett. Graywolf, $17 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-64445-287-5

The stunning latest from Barnett (Human Hours) blends the witty and the philosophical to offer a study in “restricted fragile materials,” or the bewildering condition of being alive. A sequence on loneliness runs through the collection, capturing the often ignored or unrendered sensations from life’s earliest moments (“The doctors snip the cord. I don’t know if that’s when it starts”) to its last in elegiac notes struck in poems for a father, and others for a friend. This is as much a taxonomy of “the science of love” as it is a thoughtful, literate, and discursive gathering of evidence as to how one might live deliberately, carefully, and honestly (“Flawed solutions are sometimes answered prayers,” the speaker remarks.) The voice is self-aware and open to the world, at times almost self-defeatingly so, like the moth “choosing transcendence/ over other basic needs.” Like their speaker, these poems “wander/ the Museum of Useful Life” making “mortal noise”—an unpacking, with comic timing, of the fact that “The human condition is made of moisture and heat.” Urbane, perceptive, and starkly humane, these are poems of quiet alarm, at once companionable and singular. (May)