cover image The Cupped Field

The Cupped Field

Dierdre O’Connor. Able Muse, $18.95 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-77349-035-9

Readers will need to quiet themselves as they lean into the hushed subtlety of O’Connor’s formally precise second collection (after Before the Blue Hour). The book reflects a sensibility of belatedness: “What is the word for not having been/ in the room, for missing the turn?” Elsewhere, a car-struck doe lies dying, “awash... in glass and fur,” while the poem resolves with Dickinson-ian imagery: “the ocean// closing over, its great rolling horses/ corralled, a finger of sun/ holding the horizon down.” In such moments, the poet calls into question the very conditions that make possible the tranquility from which emotion is recollected: “this now,/ no, this now,/ which, when I write it down,/ becomes this snow,// this snow, a way of covering things,/ the ethical problem,/ privilege of saying, I am here,/ in this calm place,// while elsewhere girls are being stacked/ in trucks.” And yet, the contours of such privilege remain merely suggested, however apologetic (“as if my special/ self-knowledge should translate into something”). Readers will find a poet who masterfully serves the elegiac mode she favors: “the mystery within trumping/ the mystery without.” (Nov.)