POETRY

Ringer

Univ. of Pittsburgh. Sept. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780822965954. pap. $17. POETRY
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Winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, this new collection from Lehmann (Between the Crackups) is distinctive for turning out to the world and observing it concretely. (“Morning wandered into the middle of the road”; who would have said that?) Her subjects may be selfhood, womanhood, motherhood, and family, but her tools for understanding them are an accumulated, tactile sense of life lived and the things around us. Everyday routine means “There is rent. There are bills. There are groceries to buy./ There is my husband. There is the dour Northeast.” Of herself she says, “Say the night is loneliness. It’s not…./. Nor am I white-hearted Atropos.” And time is “a form, an envelope fat/ with discarded grocery lists.” Indeed, the lists abounding here pile up to create rich poetry that’s exact, sculpted, and delivered in a calm, engaged voice. At one point, Lehmann might say, “Once, exploding stars shook/ the night’s ruby soul/ from its gasping throat,” but she adds tartly, “Not even I believe that,” reaffirming her aesthetic. Her outreach sometimes comes via second person, as when she says to a river, “You wanted the violence of women against you.”
VERDICT Highly recommended; Lehmann’s talent for engaging outwardly will win her readers among poetry fans and newbies alike.

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