by Jennifer Militello
Tupelo Press, $16.95 (paper)
Jennifer Militello’s Body Thesaurus begins with a passage from Dylan Thomas: “I, in my intricate image, stride on two levels.” It is an apt point of entry for an exploration of the struggle between an individual’s inner life and her experiences of the uncontrollable exterior world. But Militello goes beyond this persistent duality and the perennial empiricist debate of body versus mind. Her poems are paradoxical lyrics—disorienting syntax mixes parts of speech to create strange and uneven shifts of sound and meaning. Bridging and muddling the disconnects between body and world, she writes: “I am rich with different versions / of myself, and I do not know an antidote for me.” Her speakers trudge through circumstance, confronting the futility, fleetingness, and finalities of everyday life. Challenged by illness, sick with language, the body throughout the book becomes a ravaged landscape: “in a world / where nothing is clear, the world is a wound.” Militello explores the irreconcilable collision of body, psyche, and language when none are working as they should. The systematic form of the book—six sections announced by analytical statements that are subsequently navigated and subverted: “The self is not a symptom,” “The self is not a battery of tests,” “The self is not a cure”—sets us in the cold reality of scientific process, but it is a reality where boundaries between psychic interior and clinical exterior no longer hold.