Nervous System: Poems

Ecco: HarperCollins. (National Poetry). Jul. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780062930217. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062930231. POETRY
A bicycle accident suffered by Moffett’s mother and her subsequent progressive dementia were at the heart of Moffett’s first collection, June in Eden, winner of the 2016 Ohio State University Press Poetry Prize. Moffet’s latest title (chosen by Monica Youn for the National Poetry Series 2018) also concerns that tragic situation but expands to include another unfortunate episode in her mother’s life—the death of Moffett’s twin sister while in the womb. Using the term arachnoid mater (a part of the brain and spinal cord) as a jumping-off point for free association, this book offers one long poem prefaced by a relatively short introductory piece, with both relying on enjambment and written in haiku-like, three-line stanzas. Moffett quickly establishes the work’s central metaphor: a spider whose silk sac is separated from her and who spends her life trying unsuccessfully to reclaim her loss. In one exquisite image, she notes the “holy moments/ where light strikes/ a misted web.”
VERDICT The story is built around Moffett’s standing outside her mother’s hospital room thinking about her before and after dementia through “these images,” which she wistfully describes as “Filling in/ what isn’t there.” Highly recommended for all libraries.
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