Tiny Extravaganzas

Arrowsmith. Oct. 2023. 136p. ISBN 9798987924112. pap. $20. POETRY
In poems at once viscerally lyrical and intellectually challenging, this new volume from Mehta (Forest with Castanets) investigates how readers construct stories from their experiences. “You have to lose all the beginnings to know where the story really begins,” she advises, adding “After all the acrobatics and plot twists promising new/ promiselands, how do you feel about the story now?” Interestingly, despite the gorgeous linguistic impasto, her sensibility tends less to the visual than, uncommonly, the aural; sound and music figure largely in verse boldly reverberating with the “spirit-noise” she folds into the “ordinary pain and ordinary tenderness” celebrated here. That musicality is aided by the occasional deft interior or near rhyme. The stories she unearths aren’t the “expansive truths philosophers, deciding what world is not, color into centuries defined by kings, geometry, chiaroscuro, constellations, countryside” but more illuminatingly intimate ones—closeness to her son; observations on a lean-to, dancers pirouetting, and a COVID-harassed funeral director; personal tours of the Iliad, Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata, and Italy; and grief for the woman who showed her (again, unexpectedly) the “sparrow fluttering inside the free and vicious eagle of me.”
VERDICT Braced by that ordinary tenderness and a crackling intelligence, this is work for anyone interested in contemporary poetry.
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