Soft Targets

Copper Canyon. May 2019. 80p. ISBN 9781556595660. pap. $16. POETRY
This new collection by Landau (The Uses of the Body), director of New York University’s creative writing program and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, presents eight poems of varying length but functions as a single long poem. It hovers over themes of persecution, warfare, oppression, and death, with Landau persistently seeing powerful continuities between her grandmother’s experiences as a Jew in 1938 Nazi Germany and our own troubled and shifting current reality. The very phrase soft targets recurs like a leitmotif throughout the collection, emphasizing the fragility of the body and the brutality of its destruction. Landau’s dark fears and evocations tend to tilt her writing away from the pursuit of poetry as beautiful writing and toward work as witness and unhappy prophecy; glimmers of hope are few but welcome: “O beautiful habits of living,/ let me dwell on you awhile.”
VERDICT Not easy or comforting reading, Landau’s latest works as both memory and warning. For serious readers of poetry.
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