When Duckhorn (Flapping Soul, Words in Verse, 2013, etc.) looks up at the night sky, she sees angels and aliens; she tries to pull both down from the heavens in this poetry collection.
In the last moments of Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the astronaut David Bowman, floating far from Earth, gets one last message off to Mission Control: “Oh my God—it’s full of stars,” he famously intones before breaking off. Dave’s quote is enigmatic. Is he seeing God? An alien life form? Both? Whatever the case may be, 2001 is one of the most famous artworks in which religion and sci-fi collide—in which humans’ fascination with God and their attraction to the stars mingle and merge. Duckhorn’s new book features a similar mingling, and it is clear that in her work, space and heaven might be one and the same. In an early poem, “Ode to Orion’s Belt,” reflections on the constellation give way to thoughts about the deity: “Beckoning home to our ancestors / Shedding down life, if you will / Beckoning connect these dots / They were poured out in the Big Bang’s spill. / Don’t forget the ultimate monumental God / The God that improves all finds.” Then later on, in “Shreds of Evidence,” “galaxies swirl[ing] in spindles” become “meditation[s] of the God / Who put one universe on his shelf.” Clearly, the poet loves big thoughts, but it is to her credit that her own meditations seldom float off into the ether. She writes grounded, substantial poetry that both provokes and inspires. If there is any weakness in this truly original collection, it is the poet’s diction, which is occasionally nonstandard—and sometimes just head-scratching. One poem opens “Out of the darkness of the watchful night / Arrive the perpetrators of delight.” One may perpetrate a crime—but seldom a “delight.” Another begins “In the spew of the big bang / Space became / All inhabitants of the heavens / Had roots that grace blamed.” “Spew” is not a noun—at least not formally—and its connotation as vomit seems ill-suited for her lofty themes.
Moving verse that reaches for the stars.