And Then Something Happened
by Susan M. Schultz
Salt Publishing, $16.95 (paper)

In her third book of poetry, Susan M. Schultz asks one of the provocative poetic questions of our age: “If lyric is material, how to reconcile its obsession with what is forgotten?” She answers through example, using fragmentary, discontinuous, ironic extended sentences—rich with theoretical speculation, cultural critique, protean metaphors, overheard conversation, autobiographical detail, storybook passages, and puns—both to draw the reader in and to point outwards toward realities beyond the poem. Works explicitly engaged in theoretical inquiry compose the first half of the collection, examples of “How to write a long poem that evades successfully its own dullness, but by including details about an old man with McDonald’s Happy Meal stuck in his backpack, leading his grandson . . . to a seat in the bus: the old man was Asian, his grandson more Caucasian than not—so that relation can be measured sometimes only by context, not by resemblance in the way we know it.” The second half of the book also presents a poetry “of shards, of found objects, a mountain of toys glued to a central fixture, displayed at the top of a narrow stairs” and compacted into lyrics that include more autobiographical detail, much of it concerning the poet’s experience as an adoptive parent. Adoption features not merely as interesting personal tidbit but as metaphor for collage and appropriation, what Hazel Watson describes as a “poetics of adoption.” While these later poems movingly circle personal experience they also resolutely relate to a context beyond the individual lyric speaker, challenging the reader to perceive relation through situation: “The weather . . . outside her windows, multiply locked against anthrax. Terrorists have mothers. ‘Do you have any children of your own at home?’ the doctor asked, as I held my son in my arms.” The perception these poems cultivate has compelling sociopolitical implications, insisting on meaning not in isolation but in connectivity, and knowing that “form is / body, and whatever we say about it / becomes it, as the barnacle / becomes the ship to which it / adheres.”