Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod

Copper Canyon. Mar. 2020. 78p. ISBN 9781556595806. pap. $17.
Centering on love, motherhood, a friend’s murder and the resulting trial, and a parent’s death, the poems in this fourth collection from Barnard Women Poets Prize winner Brimhall (Our Lady of the Ruins) pulse with energy. Many employ Old Testament motifs, as in “Lullaby on Mount Moriah,” where the poet writes about Isaac or perhaps her own son: “The why of you a radiant devil-fish, the what of you/ a fat little soul bluing at the edges.” Titles are often repeated (“Dear Eros,” “Dear Thanatos”), building the collection’s core on these themes. Three long sequences seem closer to essays than prose poems but sail, at times, with beautiful passages. Throughout, the poet’s touch can be light, as when she describes milkweed seeds (“Last night, I slipped my finger in the milkweed,/ my hand doing the wind’s work”), but she never runs from life’s cruelties.
VERDICT One of the poet’s great strengths is her ability to forge striking metaphors even if several veer far from the sensate world: “white petals disappear into his shadow like a conclusion.” But that’s a quibble, as most poems impart a passionate fierceness while revealing a shared humanity. Highly recommended for most collections.
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