What You Want: Poems

Farrar. May 2023. 128p. ISBN 9780374607258. $27. POETRY
The poems in McLane’s ninth collection (after More Anon: Selected) pass through monochromatic shorelines, silent gardens, and empty skies with an acute receptivity to what the world gives us when we feel most intimately alone with it. In notational reveries enabled by quietude (“thoughts swell and pulse a mood of mind/ I never notice/ except when stilled”) and led by associative, unpremeditated currents of language, McLane engages the ironies of human existence (“it seemed everyone was reading/ about extinction amidst the extinction”) as well as our capacity for ignoring them (“we think/ as if we don’t think”). Oscillating between introspection and celebration—birds are “audible/ oracles swinging/ open the morning”—her poems briefly nod toward those of Emerson, Wordsworth, Ted Hughes, and even the absurdist Frederick Seidel, all the while conveying a seriousness of purpose willing to incorporate the potential distractions of intricate wordplay (“how does the earth slice the sun/ when does the moon wink back/ when is a kiss a kiss/ and when an attack”) and rhyme.
VERDICT The poetics of spontaneity is not unusual, but McLane brings to it a honed sensibility and voice entirely her own.
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