Monday, November 21, 2011

Susan Musgrave's Origami Dove

Never a fan of Susan Musgrave's thirty year ditch-and-witch imagery, I was pleasantly surprised by her first new book of poetry in eleven years, 2011's Origami Dove.

The emotional alarm systems still go off in all five firehouses, at times ("and then I start weeping/I can't help it I can't/stop" from "Conjugal Visit"), but a maturity based partly, it seems, on the reading of detachment spirituality has given her poems more proportional resonance: "Small flocks of twitchy sandpipers/scoot out on the tide; a pheasant/stutters from the ditch into the trees" and "There's just enough light left/on the river tonight to turn/the water black. You see it flare up/behind my eyes: the obituary of light." The latter quotation is from the very good section two, and it represents a heartfelt merging of unadorned natural movement with personal mood, fate, and conclusion.

Advocacy overruns aesthetics in section four, the last, but I'm grateful for the many fine poems here as a stronger counterbalance.

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