Imaginary Vessels

Copper Canyon. Nov. 2016. 116p. photos. notes. ISBN 9781556594977. pap. $17. POETRY
In her latest volume, Rekdal, a Guggenheim Fellow and finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Prize for her collection Animal Eye, proposes that identity can be discerned by the vessel, the container in which the entity is held, whether it be a glass bead, a bubble, or a broken skull. In poems that are sometimes narrative and often lyrical, Rekdal's vessels run the gamut from cages to zippered skirts to pearls and serve to hone readers' perception of beauty, of necessity. "The mussel// become what no one/ wants to:/ vessel, caisson, wounded// into making us/ the thing we want/ to call beautiful." The centerpiece of this volume is the series of "devotionals," meditations on Andrea Modica's portraits of skulls discovered at the Colorado Mental Health Institute, bones so old they hold no identity other than gender and age. Rekdal contains these poems as sonnets, reimagining these lost souls as human, as viable. "What dreams, inside this chamber, remain encased?" she muses. Throughout, Rekdal writes mostly in persona, and her characters leap and sing with imagination and music. Mae West, for instance, is recognizable from her humor and sass: "I'm no model lady, you know. A model's just an imitation of the real thing."
VERDICT A necessary read for those who appreciate imagery and fine language.
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