NONFICTION

Shock by Shock

Copper Canyon. Sept. 2015. 73p. ISBN 9781556594311. $23. POETRY
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As indicated by the poem "How I Got Through My Last Days on the Transplant List," Young, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Elegy on Toy Piano, isn't dealing with everyday upsets. With his new heart in place, he offers a sometimes blackly witty look at the human condition. Absolutely not sentimental, Young can sound angry or restless, though it's less with his situation than with our suddenly highlighted stupidities ("No one believing you is a symptom// of telling the truth"). Refreshingly, he's not here to lecture us with a Hallmark life-is-wonderful message (just read "Crash-Test Dummies of an Imperfect God"). Instead, he clarifies that we often miss the point ("Only page 200 and already Breton's// finding it impossible to reconcile/ life to his dream. If only he could feel/ my old dog drinking from his cupped palms") and that assuming a point could be our big mistake ("If I had to pick between shadows/ and essences, I'd pick shadows").
VERDICT The final poem is titled "Believe in Magic?" and though the initial response is "How could I not?" in the end Young's a burning piece of paper, hanging in air, unreadable. That's where he leaves us in this energizing book, which takes chances and gives no answers.

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