You looked up vaguely
or you didn’t—even the memory
is dying. Then you whole body
breathed out, and the argument ended.
Heaven surfaced about you
like a glass tabletop, hard
and cold. Whatever you do
don’t turn me into poetry. Sorry:
I am done crying about it
but I am not done crying.
An extended meditation on how death affects those left behind, Under Sleep is a skillfully understated, beautifully rendered elegy for the poet’s partner. Formally inventive and technically sophisticated, Daniel Hall attends to the power of death to haunt every perception. The poet’s voice registers as though he were walking on the bottom of the ocean, in a state of mind somewhere “under sleep,” in a kind of waking dream. In Hall’s hands, isolated moments of perception bloom into truly touching love elegies.
The poems in Under Sleep were written over a period of ten years and, as a result, are densely interconnected, with lines and entire stanzas transplanted between different poems. Using styles ranging from free verse to sonnets, Sapphics, and rhymed haikus, Hall populates the book with literary and historical figures—Baudelaire, Pound, and Casanova—in poems set in China, the Middle East, Death Valley, and Italy. Throughout, the poetry is propelled by tension as the speaker struggles with his own better judgment—and against his lover’s wishes—to turn the loss of the beloved into art.
Praise for Daniel Hall
“Daniel Hall’s work reminds us that a poet’s sharp-sightedness, the whole business of ‘getting things right,’ is a matter of far more than accuracy. It’s a matter of—inescapably—thanksgiving.”—Brad Leithauser, New York Review of Books