Loads of Learned Lumber

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Julianne Buchsbaum, _The Apothecary's Heir_

I DO NOT remember exactly how I acquired this. Coming across it, though, I noticed a blurb from Lucie Brock-Broido (who picked this volume for the National Poetry Series in 2011), and since I had just read and valued The Master Letters, it seemed like a sign, of sorts.

As with The Master Letters, the earlier poems in the collection tend to stick with a pre-20th century vocabulary. Natural imagery abounds--stars, birds, leaves, the sea--but in a decidedly dark, estranged, Poe-ish register. It may be the alliteration and internal rhyme that reminded me of Poe--"a scarecrow shuffles its cuffs of straw"--but the gloom and claustrophobia are part of it, too. "Summer of Fires" seems almost to be a gothicized re-write of Keats's "To Autumn."

Close to mid-point, a different kind of diction makes itself heard (a "dilapidated Chevrolet," "Dixie cups," and "a dose of Thorazine"); formally, the poems have a lot in common with those earlier in the book (lots of unrhymed couplets darting forward through some unguessable, unshareable logic), but they belong more precisely to the present, create the same exposed-nerve terror in more locatable circumstances.

All in all, these poems seem to come from a frightening place, and one admires Buchsbaum for getting enough mastery over that place to write these poems out and see them into print. It was certainly an interesting, though scary place to be for 63 pages.

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