Microreviews: Amaranth Borsuk, Handiwork
September 1, 2012
Sep 1, 2012
1 Min read time
What information can the body hold—physically, psychically, historically—and how do we translate these encryptions into language?
Slope Editions, $14.95 (paper)
What information can the body hold—physically, psychically, historically—and how do we translate these encryptions into language? These are Amaranth Borsuk’s chief concerns in her debut collection, winner of the 2011 Slope Editions Book Prize. “Words so readily betray things they’re meant / to represent,” she states, the word “betray” capturing both the loss and the discovery that are catalyst to these intricately constructed poems. The book’s recurrent image of the hand reinforces the importance of care and craft—see the poems’ many brackets and erasures—to Borsuk’s interrogation of personal identity and a family narrative partly obscured by the Holocaust. Adamantly not straightforward memoir, Handiwork strives instead to capture process (“how does mind / hold slippery bodies, how map / what’s outside known boundaries?”), often suggesting a series of maps—either those of earlier centuries, in which the far side of the ocean is tenanted by sea monsters, or modern satellite images that force us to ponder what lurks inside all of those actual houses. Borsuk hints at answers first chemical and numerological (in a series of short poems titled “Salt Gematria,” which make use of the mystical Hebrew practice of assigning every letter a numerical value), then geopolitical (“Prague, Poland, Germany, Paris, / [no sequence, less information]”), then emotional (“salvaged grief”). However, it’s Borsuk’s resolve not to fill the spaces she has delineated, to leave their “little distance distilled” unbridged that, in the end, feels most revelatory.
While we have you...
...we need your help. You might have noticed the absence of paywalls at Boston Review. We are committed to staying free for all our readers. Now we are going one step further to become completely ad-free. This means you will always be able to read us without roadblocks or barriers to entry. It also means that we count on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, help us keep it free for everyone by making a donation. No amount is too small. You will be helping us cultivate a public sphere that honors pluralism of thought for a diverse and discerning public.
September 01, 2012
1 Min read time