WAR by Bjaine Dorach


Email this review


A debut collection of poetry investigates moments of vulnerability in a hellish landscape.

Reading Dorach’s poems, one has a sense of walking through a wasteland after some great cataclysm. “I have seen too much,” begins “Bones.” “Too many parted lips, / the bed, / the homeless wandering / And the shrill reckoning of a too-desperate peace.” Wandering and seeing may be the least of the traumas in this volume, which features all manner of corruption, torture, disease, and betrayal. “Remember The Days” starts “Don’t I remember the days when I cheated death? / I hung balanced like a slave on the edge of the devil’s sword. / I bled gallons into the pit / Screaming halt to a half-crazed lunatic.” The landscape is something out of Dante or Bosch, a fallen world populated with magicians, travelers, roving armies, pigs, snakes, and demons (and, more colloquially, “morons” and “whores”). Though the actual trespasses are never plainly enumerated, readers will get the sense that Dorach is presenting a vision of their own world. The penultimate poem, “Spiral Wound,” opens with this dark creation myth: “The universe bled, and then we came, / spitting, puking, and trying all new things. / Making ourselves low and mad, / this is what the spirals made.” The volume is a long one at over 200 pages, though the poems themselves are rarely more than a dozen lines each. The poet displays an incantatory economy of language, as in “I Am,” which reads in full: “I am a bandaged demon. / Tell me what is right.” Dorach’s currency is symbolism and surrealism, and some readers will likely have trouble grasping these mercurial images. But for those who are not turned off by the esoteric or apocalyptic, there is much here that is arresting. The author offers a possible ars poetica at the beginning of “Eleven Pictures”: “A paper beast appears before my eyes and I dwell on its wisdom, / laying paper on paper and torturing shapes into a sane-vision existence.” As readers move through this menagerie of paper beasts, wisdom and sanity may prove elusive, but a sense of the world’s madness will make itself plain.

A striking volume of dark and symbolic poems about pain and longing.

Pub Date: June 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5255-4066-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: