Duncan’s debut collection of introspective poems plaits together pain, love, truth and self-discovery.
The author begins her magnificent collection with the simple premise of knowing oneself. Taken together, the poems chart her journey from suffering heartbreak to embracing life. Shards of a shattering loss shimmer from page to page, and Duncan examines them piece by piece, with her reinvention of herself hiding between the lines. Symbolism lends depth in “Small Waters,” in which the poet describes longing as droplets: “But if / you chance to listen to the sigh / of each tear as it curls around stone, / you may feel a thirst that fills you / and wets your carved cheek.” Her words document both pain and joy, and her poems document a journey of self-integration and change; even a poem about emerging from painshouts with triumph. Duncan speaks of love in words reminiscent of the Bible’s Song of Solomon in “Please Hold My Hand”: “Neither your vessel nor mine will last / forever; each with its cracks will finally / break. Soon enough we will fall into / another season of beauty. So for now, / please hold my hand. Let us drink wine / and sing love songs to one another.” After these intimate explorations, the collection ruminates on larger, more ephemeral issues, such as universal oneness and humans’ connection to nature. In these areas, the poet becomes less tangible and more airy, but the rich, vibrant language evokes moonlit incantations and meditations in the open air. In one gorgeous line from “Grace,” for example, Duncan sums up the life of the artist: “I have only words to express my restless heart, / only a few clear notes that ring inside my busy head.”
A stunning, fertile selection of poems worthy of the broadest possible audience.