a Year & other poems

Milkweed. Mar. 2022. 96p. ISBN 9781571315472. $22. POETRY
This third collection by trans poet Charles (after feeld, the 2019 Pulitzer poetry finalist) registers a year characterized by loss, separation and despair for a planet in the process of environmental annihilation (“Desert hills all / aflame”). Like the ghostly, ashen shadows of Hiroshima, the poet’s spare lyrics emerge from the page in Sapphic fragments, striving to articulate not the physical presence of things, but the nearly invisible traces their absence leaves on our consciousness (“In the aenigma/ of a shadow/ of a window left open/ for wind/ to leave”). The result is an inner life sculpted in language (“What was crossed out is not the same/ as what was never written down”), one revised to weather a new, if diminished, future (“Awaiting not clarity but the shadow of something clear”).
VERDICT Not as strikingly original in concept and language as feeld, this new collection adheres to a more personal, intimate aesthetic (“Our separate smoke/ caught/ in the same ascent”) that may or may not connect with any given reader. Still, Charles remains a serious experimental poet who has tasked herself with the challenge of creating “a language capable of itself.”
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