Cain Named the Animal: Poems

Farrar. Apr. 2022. 96p. ISBN 9780374602857. $25. POETRY
At its core, this seventh collection (after Sometimes I Never Suffered) from National Book Award winner McCrae is a sustained quest to reclaim lost portions of the traumatized self, both for the poet individually and for the collective persona of humanity. Life, he avers, may be a gift, but it comes with harsh qualifications: “A gift that disappears as it is given/ A gift from whom whenever they give you anything/ You have to ask them where they got it from/ A gift that disappears and takes you with it.” As difficult to bear as loss, abuse, and need may be, they are irrevocable attributes of what we are: “You can’t escape what you consume/ You must take part in the suffering that feeds you.” In the title sequence that constitutes the volume’s second half, McCrae reimagines the postlapsarian struggle of humankind to find its way back to divinity. Less immediate than his personal but thematically parallel poems, they nevertheless create a harrowing, phantasmagoric mythos.
VERDICT Readers will marvel at McCrae’s ability to achieve Miltonic scope with such economy of expression. His is an original voice well worth close reading.
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