A book of dark corners and shifting locations, full of switches that light upthe unobvious places, elsewhere in the house. House Dreams, Deanna Young’s haunted and haunting third collection, is at once a core sample of the life we all live underground, and a view beneath the foundations of the various eras and places that make up one woman’s life story. These poems have the plainspoken power, surreal shifting, uncanny logic and transformed everyday imagery of our most numinous dreams. It’s as if Jung’s assertion that “[w]hen an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate,” is taken up here as a reading guide back through time.
Thunder over the Minas Basin.
For days it’s been wrestling with the mountain gods
and still no rain. You walk the perimeter of the house,
sniffing the air like an animal—the erotic fields.
Around again, acknowledging each of its many doors
with a nod. To you they’re human. Like you,
the windows cannot believe
this is happening.
—from “The Path”
The Water Here is Never Blue, by Shelagh Plunkett
In the 1970s, Shelagh Plunkett, a teenage girl from Vancouver, travels with her middle-class family to Guyana and Indonesia, where her father, a civil engineer, has been posted to help with those countries’ water systems. On the surface, she lives a protected life, attending girls’ schools run by nuns and surrounded by household staff. But there is also a fearlessness and recklessness in the girl—a hotel tryst at fifteen, swimming with piranhas, and cavorting with monkeys.
The secrecy and double life of this teenager in a foreign land is paralleled by the mysterious comings and goings of her beloved but distant father. Guyana is nationalizing Canada’s bauxite mines, and Indonesians are slaughtering East Timorese a few miles away. Why is their phone tapped, why do they always have to have a suitcase packed, and why is her father working on a water project on a parched island? In The Water Here Is Never Blue, an adolescent comes of age and is indelibly marked by her years abroad. But it is the adult narrator who ultimately struggles with the truth of who her father was.
Astatine, by Michael Kenyon
An award-winning writer conjures the Muse and the “noble gases” in this elemental and incandescent new collection. Astatine is an Italian girl, who like Dante’s Beatrice, haunts the narrator of Michael Kenyon’s incandescent fourth book of poetry. Named after a radioactive element whose isotopes endure half-lives of mere seconds, she is simultaneously a disappearing and abiding presence who cajoles and comforts, who questions and points, who often leaves the poet puzzled, electrified, heart-broken, and wanting more. Astatine is Kenyon’s meditation on the evanescent and persevering tragedy of our lives on Earth. He takes us on an inspirational journey through time that embraces all we are born to and must too soon let go of, even as we make peace with the ever-changing fortunes of existence, even as we come upon unexpected joy.
Husband of a broken arm, take your time.
Joy is waiting. Joy is almost here.
Look twice at the black dog with three legs.
You just saw a black dog with four legs.
—from “Orpheus XVI”