Radius of Light

Radius of Light

By Bert Almon

A review of Radius Of Light by Joshua Auerbach

Published on April 1, 2008

Radius Of Light
Joshua Auerbach

DC Books
$16.95
paper
77pp
978-1-897190-34-0

Joshua Auerbach’s excellent book has a miscellaneous quality that is not uncommon in first collections. It contains travel poems, translations (mostly from Paul Éluard, but Rilke and Lorca are here too), satires, love poems, and landscapes. His diction is remarkably fresh and precise: he is sensitive not only to words but to syllables, to the sonic qualities of every phoneme. In “Spirit Intrusion: Herniated Disc,” a poem informed by John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet XIV,” we can hear the grinding of the vertebrae in his use of consonants, two kinds of articulation. In the sequel, “Spirit Intrusion II,” he explicitly links bone images and the “clash and grind” of sounds like “k,” “d,” and “t.” He has several poems that use damaged bones and joints to suggest spiritual anguish. Like John Donne in T.S. Eliot’s “Whispers of Immortality,” Auerbach knows “the anguish of the marrow / The ague of the skeleton.” Two outstanding poems are “Love in the Time of Dioxin,” a look at romance in a toxic and brutal world where lovers feel more anguish than rapture, and “Love in the Time of Dioxin II,” an excruciating account of a woman undergoing a tattoo. These poems are not gratuitously brutal, but they leave marks. The poisoning of earth and air is a theme in “New Breed,” a poem that sketches a world filled with carcinogens, where the new breeds are likely to be two-headed frogs and hermaphroditic toads. Not everything here is written in the shadow of apocalypse. There are travel poems about Armenia and Barcelona, and closer to home, views of the East End of Montreal and the Gatineau Hills, and even a panoramic view from a Cessna. The translations of Paul Éluard are graceful little lyrics. But the startling originality of the book lies in its edgy confrontations: the human in a perilous landscape, the spirit struggling with bodily pain. Radius of Light is a fine debut. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.

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