This Connection of Everyone With Lungs
Juliana Spahr
New California Poetry, $16.95 (paper)

“I am large, I contain multitudes,” wrote Walt Whitman in his Leaves of Grass, promising that he would “permit to speak at every hazard, / Nature without check.” In This Connection of Everyone with Lungs, her third book of poems, Juliana Spahr sings of an expanded consciousness, of both “the specific in our bed at night” and “the globe in our mind that we didn’t see really until the twentieth-century with all its technologies and variations on the mirror.” Long, anaphoric lines, which include events from the personal and political realms, accrete across stanzas and sections, the successive clauses elaborating the lyric moment so that it contains an ever-broadening context: “And today, I am back with yous, beloveds, and still we do not speak about yesterday’s deployment of sixty-two thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to the Gulf Region that included seventeen thousand and five hundred marines and pilots, mechanics and additional warplanes, combat engineers, logistics support and loading crews. . . . We do not speak of it and instead press against one anothers reveling in the pleasure of being back together.” When, in “A Poem Written After September 11, 2001,” the poet declares that “There are these things: / cells, the movement of cells and the division of cells,” she draws a connection between the cells of the organism, the terrorist, and the prison, suggesting that we are all part of the body politic and bear responsibility for the actions of and reactions to our states. Spahr’s ambition here is more than just wordplay. Continually inviting readers to identify beyond “our skin� our largest organ and how it keeps us contained,” This Connection of Everyone with Lungs bids us to perceive and moreover to act on the fact that “embedded deep in our cells is ourselves and everyone else”—or as Spahr’s forefather put it, “every atom belongs to me as good belongs to you.