The Infinitesimals

Copper Canyon. May 2014. 100p. ISBN 9781556594663. pap. $16. POETRY
There's no introductory poem here about finding oneself in a dark wood. But from the title and the book's grim tone, one can see that, like Dante, National Book Critics Circle Award winner Kasischke (Space, in Chains) is traveling the world of the dead. The poet meets people she's known, and she remembers pivotal events such as the loss of her parents—her mother appears frequently. Events can also be as simple as someone tying "your tiny shoes for you," as in "This Is Not a Poem/Fairytale," a poem supposedly not a poem because it's a newspaper article and because its subject—parents abandoning their toddler in a forest—is something that must be remembered in order for the poet to "survive." Then there is the young mother in "Canto One." Kasischke writes that she "stuck her head in an oven" and calls her the "poet of no way out." One of the most striking images shows this figure standing in a pool of blood.
VERDICT Is Kasischke dreaming of traversing the layers of hell and meeting Sylvia Plath? Or is she just letting her mind wander? And if so, where is it going? Where is each poem going? At their best, the pieces here see inside the inside of things, but often they just get lost in their own thought.
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