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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Entering the House of Awe

Artifacts of Passion

Entering the House of Awe, by Susanna Childress
New Issues, 2011.
Review by Debrah Lechner

Entering the House of Awe is the poetry of passion, of impatience, of an unabated hunger to experience, to understand, to possess the ephemeral. It is all of this, and it is self-aware, wry, and witty as well.

From "The Necessary Dark":

I send the letter, in the corner a stamp
like the eye of a fish, promising something

neither of us know how to say. I send the rain, the cracked
green shell of a tortoise . . .

I send to your empty mouth a whistle

on the end of a string, my last true place, silence plaited
in the gristle of the spine and the tendons of the arms raised waist-high

hollowed out as if to hold you, yes, even this I send.
Immediately following this gorgeous poem is another of equal beauty, which I am particularly happy to include in this review because it complements and quite precisely illustrates the “artifact” theme for issue #49 of Hayden’s Ferry Review. The name of the poem itself is delightful: "Instructions for the Twitterpated, Nightengaled, and Sore in Love."

Begin by throwing something away: the microwave,
for example. This will be easier after the crimson hibiscus
fall from where you hung them to dry, their huge corolla spilled
like dark tortillas and you own ticking pulse

won’t stop you from sinking to the floor with a heady,
comprehensive loss, those flowers you hung up by the broom
stunningly ruined, their long legs snapped like the legs
of a praying mantis. After this, sweep your arm

across the cupboards and fill a canvas sack with the butter pickles
and wheat germ nobody bothered to open, the prize-winning box
of cereal, the spindled cheese grate. Whatever you do, do not
toss the egg shells, which, after having broken each open

you returned to the carton like a dozen viscous sockets
that might yet sing. Run your fingers over their fractured edges
and don’t be surprised if you’ve never touched
such a thing, speckled with the memory of locust,

millet, wind, now crooked halves of yolky hollow,
cupped grottos of sound you’ve become deaf to . . .
And so it goes, one beauty after another in varying poetic forms. Readers will necessarily have their favorites, but all of these poems offer deeply detailed sensual pleasures.

Susanna Childress has published another book of poetry that would make an excellent companion to this volume, Jagged with Love, which won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Both are at this time available at and from most other booksellers.

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