Nancy Lee’s first full-length poetry collection, What Hurts Going Down, paints a landscape of rape culture that is both matter-of-fact and horrifying. The poems reveal this world through an array of personal recollections, second-person invocations, and third-person narrations, varyingly detached and vivid. Rape culture, or the normalizing of sexual aggression and exploitation, is a subject of visceral, if mundane, recollection: a hookup on a basement bear-skin rug (“Girl with Bear”), an encounter in “a bar by an off-ramp” (“Ms. Clairvoyant”). But it is also a sedimentation of echoing encounters that effortlessly parallel coming of age: “my childhood bed, the guest room / bed, the bed in my college dorm / and the futon in my first apartment” (“Analysis”).
In Anna Reckin’s reading of the Caribbean poet Kamau Brathwaite’s notion of tidalectics, she writes that it “exhibits the performativity of sound: sound that reveals trans-oceanic relation … sound that animates sound-space and brings the living and the dead into our presence.”
In Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609), the object of desire, whether “fair youth” or “dark lady”—diseased, venereal, degrading—is erased by the poet’s own practice of representation. In Sonnet’s Shakespeare (2019), Sonnet L’Abbé uses a reverse erasure method on her namesake, cannibalizing each sonnet, absorbing them within her own prose poems that flicker with aural ghosts of the originals, retaining words in the same order within her overwriting of them. Similarly, each original sonnet’s syntax, argument, theme, iambic rhythm, pattern of imagery is reworked, worked over, metabolized, raged against, ravaged.
With its plain and elegant construction that evades the orientating features of title, spine, back copy, Correspondences, Anne Michaels’ beautifully unconventional book-length poem, invites the reader into a pleated Möbius strip. “Forgive me, for beginning / at the end,” she writes in the midst of a poignant and evocative elegy whose very form echoes the […]