by Nancy Naomi Carlson
Seagull Books, 2023
Paper: 978-1-80309-170-9 | eISBN: 978-1-80309-171-6

Poetry from an especially deft magician of words.
This latest book of wonders from Nancy Naomi Carlson fixes upon one of the few defenses we have to confront the body’s betrayals—our words. Though in the end, even the world’s last word “forgets its name . . . has no word for this forgetting.” At once vulnerable and open, tempered and tempted equally by the erotic and the empathic, such dualities limn these affectingly beautiful and lyrical poems. Carlson’s lines, entreating as Scheherazade, “weave chords / into tales within tales, whirlpools within seas” to save her life. Indeed, music has no need for voice or harp, as “in anechoic chambers, you become / the only instrument of your worldly sounds,” echoing Mozart’s credo “that music lies / in the silence between notes.” In a world scarred by pandemics, wars, and violent tribalism, the givens are gone—“talismans we clung to, believing / we might be spared in some way / by marking our doors / with our own sacrificial blood.” In these unflinching free and formal verse poems, Carlson seduces us with the promise of the joy yet to be had, were we to look in the right places.

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