NONFICTION

Certain Magical Acts

Penguin. (Poets). Jun. 2016. 144p. ISBN 9780143108160. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781101991879. POETRY
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This far-ranging new work from Notley, a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner, opens in a dreamscape ("I couldn't sleep in my dream. …/ Distortion's all that I know") and unfolds in a stately, reflective manner to become an indictment of the disaffected contemporary world. The speaker, who initially appears as a sort of go-between, even a prophet and leader, in a mythopoetic kingdom of shades, regrets our lack of connection. "We weren't always singular," she says. "Democracy isn't efficient, and the only politics I recognize lies between us." It's as if Notley is trying to find and reframe the concept of community as she sweeps through history and consciousness, with results that are ever polished but sometimes ponderous.
VERDICT Important work from a leading poet, though not for beginners.

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