Harbinger: Poems

Ecco: HarperCollins. Oct. 2022. 80p. ISBN 9780063233966. pap. $16.99. POETRY
Nearly every poem in this National Poetry Series winner from Puhak (Guinevere in Baltimore) is titled with a close variant of the phrase “Portrait of the Artist,” yet what widely different journeys each takes us on, from the first scares of motherhood (“A child too perfect// calls to the knife. Hallelujah the birthmark, the extra digit”) to love (“I carried/ water for you, the one for whom the world’s/ aqueducts/ were not conduit enough”). Puhak scores frissons with many of her unusual and striking comparisons (“your hidden musculature/ you’re lashed to the mast of my bone-ship”) and is not averse to addressing world problems; at a dinner party, “The guests arrive when the flames start./ We draw the curtains/ …While the city burns, while the algae blooms, while the oceans froth acrid.” These poems share a deep curiosity about and connection to our world, good and bad, majestic and dystopian. Some are uplifting, while others deepen our pain about tragedies from shooter drills to ancestors’ forced relocations. Yet even at their most troubling, the quirky humor provides some respite.
VERDICT Though a few are not fully realized, in general these poems balance the dire and dystopian with the joyful and caring, inviting the reader to stay onboard for each new voyage. A collection that should not be missed.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing