Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in
Pub Date: 10/27/2003
List Price: $17.95
Oni Buchanan's work undertakes an encounter with all that is desperately, and strictly, and unavoidably, patterned-all that, inside and outside us, will not cease to pattern us. From DNA to weather cycle, from the mechanics of bodily life, to the mechanics of the unknown puppet-master deity, it is an inquiry undergone with such urgency, accuracy and intensity one grows astonished, even a bit afraid. Kepler, Frankenstein, frequencies of all kinds (musical, erotic, neurophysical, biological, mathematical) merge to inflict their objective truths on the flesh and heart of this animal we call our 'human' being. At times it seems this poet is able to speak from a place closer to the dangerous heart of evolution than anyone has ever attempted, her exploration of the mechanical nature of desire and the desiring face of the inhuman arriving at a ferociously beautiful visionary understanding-hallucinatory, scientific, vatic, and filled with deep longing, sadness and pathos.
—Jorie Graham, author of Never
These poems are like road maps that have been creased and spilled on, so that the experience is one of rupture and loss of direction. The poems exude a knowledge of pain, physical and psychological, and the poems themselves are ways to extract and heal the pain quickly. The animal body, suffering.
—Fanny Howe, author of Indivisible
Oni Buchanan's stunning poems give voice to the animal that is bred by grief, a creature whose experience of private calamity can neither be named nor forgotten, and one who finds herself compelled to replay intricate dramas of estrangement and yearning. It's as though Buchanan's animal had been denied access to the code that would assure continuity between parent and child, present and future, desire and fulfillment, song and action. 'They send me out on an errand for the words,' she writes. Aching and beautiful and brutal and often self-brutalizing, the poems in What Animal are astonishing evidence of the clairvoyance of the bereaved.
—Mark Levine, author of Enola Gay
Odd and intriguing-brilliantly dexterous-and one wonders where this writer will go next.
Throughout What Animal, the speaker's compassion for the damaged animalia is remarkably striking. . . . Buchanan's creatures are ultimately irreconcilable to one another, and in these lacunae lies her agony: in the gap / that's where my crying is." It is her gift to us that, from her bereavement, from "the dirt" and the gaps, she constructs such a radically intelligent map of grief, both hers and ours.
[A] haunting and intelligent debut.
SEBA Book Award, Southeast Booksellers Association