The Animal Is Chemical

Four Way. Mar. 2024. 118p. ISBN 9781961897007. pap. $17.95. POETRY
In this Levis Prize–winning collection, Bar-Nadav (The New Nudity) uses beautifully exacting language to explore difficult subjects: human physicality, particularly pain, illness, and death, and the loss of some 50 family members who were murdered in the Holocaust. The title poem comes from a series that effectively uses the erasure of information found on package inserts from medications to decode the medical jargon that often distances us from bodily and psychic fragility (“Your / mind / is / night. // Your / eyes open wounds”). “Pleas[e]” uses the same tool to even more chilling effect as it plumbs statements made by Nazi doctors and medical personnel during the Nuremberg Trials (“Transgressions and / experiments on human beings seemed / peaceful”). “There is always a we / in my mouth,” she maintains of her ancestors, whose loss she faces unflinchingly, just as she faces “a network of needles and nerves” that wrack her and the tragedy of infertility and a stillborn child. Surveying reminders of such loss in “Every Object Is Someone,” she notes “Every object alive and not alive. / …A glow that could burn this house down,” and fire imagery rages throughout these pages.
VERDICT A deeply human book for all readers.
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