Calligraphies: Poems

Norton. Apr. 2023. 144p. ISBN 9781324036463. $26.95. POETRY
Following Blazons, the multi-award-winning Hacker examines love, war, resistance, literature, memories, and aging, but what she does best is capture the everyday: the tastes and smells of food, coffee, and wine, and, most importantly, the clashes of languages and cultures, particularly in Beirut, Paris, and the French village of Montpeyroux. Even as she captures the fear and stasis of pandemic, her empathetic questioning of what makes a good life brings these poems to a deeper level. “History trundled// beneath, gravel on a barge,/ ground down to its origins,” she says at one point and, as she contemplates loss and loneliness, “My feet/ have lost the memory of roads that run/ from town to hamlet, from Belleville to Saint-/ Denis.” Throughout, Hacker uses multiple forms, from the ghazal to the sonnet, and the repetition of words and phrases brings music and emotional depth to many of the poems.
VERDICT Occasionally, a phrase brushes improbability (“My horse and my notebook think// what I am thinking/ through an orgy of cadence”), but these poems breathe with life; even in a collection this large, the reader stays involved. “On the road,/ cars rarify, whisk by trees that explode/ in redbud, apple blossom, presage fruit”: a poetic journey not to be missed.
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